Trends in Online Education

Online education has certainly changed the way that many people gain professional skills and a more developed intellect. Faster connection speeds, streamlined web-based learning environments, and better online communication tools have changed the way online learning works in recent years; however, technology is always changing, and forward-looking trends point to coming changes in online education.

Online Education as a Strategy of Growth in Higher Education Institutions

Recent surveys by a group of researchers at Babson College have revealed that more colleges and universities are coming to see online education as increasingly important for the future of their institution.

  • In the survey, 60% of administrators at for-profit colleges said that distance learning was a key strategy in their long-term growth; the percentage is slightly higher at traditional non-profit colleges. Between 40% and 60% of administrators said that they are including online education in their formal strategic plans for the future.

Online Education and the Stagnant Economy

While many factors have been increasing the prevalence of online education, including its relative affordability, accessibility, and flexibility, the current downturn in the economy has also increased the number of students utilizing online education.

  • In the same survey, about 75% of private-sector educational institutions have reported higher enrollment in their online programs, after the recent economic collapse; the demand for online classes was greater than the demand for traditional programs during the years of 2009 and 2010.

Social Networking in Education

Social networking has been the next big thing for the last few years, and many educators are speculating about how to incorporate social networking into their instructional techniques, in order to better communicate with students.

  • One recent study examined how Twitter could be used to connect with students, and if it was indeed a more effective way to communicate with them. Published in the Journal of Computer-Assisted Interaction, the study revealed that students who received important announcements and communicated with professors via Twitter were more engaged in the material, based on a national survey of student engagement.
  • The students in the Twitter class also had significantly higher GPAs that their peers in a class where the same announcements were posted on a real-life bulletin board.

Educational Mobility

Polls have revealed that most students prefer to use their cell phones or tablet computers when possible, rather than hauling around a large laptop. Some education and tech gurus are saying that the next big move in online learning will be bringing educational content to mobile devices. The real challenge here is modifying academic content for use on a small screen, in order to engage users. Current social studies, science, and math mobile programs are in the works.

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