Online Learning Trends

Technological change often happens gradually, then suddenly. While the winds of change in education have been blowing for some time, in 2020 these have become a howling gale. Facing economic, health and social crises in quick succession, the multi-billion dollar education industry has been upended in recent months.

This article will explore some of the broader trends in the Edtech industry.

Social learning

Integrating social elements within online environments has a number positive effects on learning. Raspovic et al. (2017) argue that

“social networking can help establish online connections and minimise isolation feelings, which usually occur in online learning where students feel isolated or lonely. Establishing these online collections through online learning environments can develop learning communities, which in return develop a positive sense contributing to student satisfaction, perceived learning, and social presence” (p.xx).

At its core, learning is innately social and collaborative. Without the social aspect, “learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people have to rely solely on the effects of their own” (Bandura p. 22).

As humans, we learn observationally; relying on the actions of others to inform our own behaviours. Online learning lends itself to social learning through a range of tools and the gamification of activities.

New technologies fostering social learning

1. Padlet: Virtual sticky note whiteboard
2. Mindmeister: Concept mapping/mind mapping tool
3. Mentimeter: Interactive presentations
4. Instructional Design: Online resource assisting facilitators, teachers and policy makers on designing effective learning experiences.

The role of teachers in digital learning environments

In addition to the emergence of social learning, the role of educators changed in the transition to online learning. While their role has changed, their presence in online educational environments remains crucial to a student’s learning experience. In addition to instructing content, teachers in online environments are now responsible for the pedagogical, social and managerial aspects course content.

Sustained growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

The surge in popularity of MOOCs in recent years has offered accessible and affordable education for tens of millions globally. Once considered a complement to formal university courses, MOOCs have evolved as they’ve grown; now offering free and paid courses that challenge incumbent institutions.

As Harvard Business Review notes, “by leveraging algorithms and operating at truly disruptive price points, these programmes are less expensive for colleges to operate and market, and less expensive for the student.”

Some of the most dominant MOOCs

EdX: non-profit founded by two Stanford professors in 2012
Coursera: for-profit joint venture between Harvard and Stanford University
Udacity: Silicon-Valley based educational startup offering industry-backed skills
Khan Academy: US based non-profit educational organisation
MIT OpenCourseware: MIT’s answer to EdX, operated as a non-profit

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