Whether you call it “e-learning,” “online education or “online training,” you can bet that the newest way to be a student is here to stay.
In the United States alone, online training is growing at an estimated 30 percent per year. A full 75 percent of colleges and universities now offer online degree programs.
The popularity of online learning comes hand-in-hand with new digital tools (tablets and smart phones), Web-based modes of communication (email) and social interaction (Twitter, Facebook). The advantages of using these technologies to learn include convenience, lower costs and one-on-one teacher-student interaction.
Scalability is another attractive aspect of learning online. Programs can be sized to educate small numbers of users or a large group. Another benefit people often overlook is that learning via technology encourages student participation. Shy students and those who need a little more time to “get it” can often learn at their own pace and interact with the instructor and one another more freely than in a classroom.
Look for the following trends in online learning in 2013 and beyond:
E-learning becomes corporate. Online learning is fast becoming part of the corporate culture. More and more we’ll see professionals getting their required certification updates online. Increasingly, HR managers are encouraging employees to complete internal training programs on the company-wide intranet and the Internet. With job descriptions evolving faster and faster, frankly the local community college and its job training programs are probably a little behind the times. Now and in the future, employers are turning to on-the-job training via online education to push new skills and industry standards to their organizations. Quick training online means avoiding the lag time of retreat-based training or classroom courses.
Governments get in on the act. It’s been 14 years since President Clinton’s Executive Order 13111 said “a coordinated federal effort is needed to provide flexible training opportunities to employees and to explore how federal training programs, initiatives and policies can better support lifelong learning through the use of learning technology.” In 2013, governments around the world are expected to follow the lead of the corporate world and get into online learning, too. By deploying quality education programs online, society can benefit enormously—particularly in remote areas where schools and teachers are scarce.
High-quality education becomes affordable. The open environment of the online world is challenging the once-exclusive institutions of higher learning. Thanks to lower operational costs, learning providers can deliver high-quality content without the students setting foot in ivy-covered bricks and mortar. Expensive private schools are re-purposing high-quality versions of their curricula for the online community. In addition, students can avoid many of the costs associated with traditional learning, such as commuting and buying textbooks.
Service providers develop more quick-start options. As online learning marches toward becoming the de facto mode of learning in the corporate world and in government, application service providers will release more turnkey e-learning solutions. This will be a boon for users who don’t have the means or time to develop their own training programs. Software-as-a-service companies are innovating online training courses customized for specific industries. And just a few months ago, Google took an experimental first step into online education, releasing open-source software called “Course Builder.” The search giant hopes that universities will use it to deliver free online courses.