Distance learning is not a new concept. In fact it can be traced back to the 18th century for the first correspondence course. Distance learning used evolving technology like the radio and the television. However, online learning is a pretty new concept that came into the picture when computers and Internet did. It was a giant step for distance learning, offering online degree programs to students around the world. A lot of universities offer free online classes through Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs).
Online Degree Programs
The US Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics did a survey and found that 27.7% of undergraduates and 32.7% of graduate students complete at least a part of their course curriculum using an online platform. This percentage is supposed to grow every year.
The increase in the number of students for online courses is particularly important, as enrollment in colleges has gone down in the last four years. While students are enthusiastic about online education a small portion of academic leaders does not see online learning as a critical factor for future growth and development. However, according to a survey done by the Babson Survey Research Group, more than 60% of academic leaders recognize that online learning is important.
Factors Supporting the Growth of Online Learning
The possibility of online learning becoming more important is fueled by the fact that it has a number of positive aspects:
- Industry Relevant Curriculum
- Quality online resources
- Credibility of distance learning in the job market
With advances in technology like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and artificial intelligence (AI), the possibilities of online learning become limitless. Some of the top universities of the world are beginning to expect that virtual reality will play a big role for students and become a necessity for potential employers.
In the fall of 2016, Harvard University became the host for a group of international thought leaders who helped quantify the future role of AR/VR in education and the world in general. In February of 2017, this group announces the launch of an AR/VR studio for students to incorporate these technologies into their educational efforts.
Adaptive learning where teachers use technology to create individualized learning paths for students has changed the way a teacher interacts with students. Another very important change is the availability of e-books or digital texts. Earlier, books that required special access are now available online to students.
It is most likely that as universities and colleges adapt more and more to the online mode of learning, other technologies will emerge and the possibility of online learning become more important goes up significantly.