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What will online learning look like in the future?

Kyla Ball

In all areas of education, learning and training, online learning is expected to continue evolving and growing, following its fast expansion over the early part of this decade. Here are some broad key trends, some exciting possibilities and links to some innovative use cases that indicate what the future of online education, learning and training might look like.

Increased accessibility

The main benefit that online learning provides is the potential to provide education to individuals who may not have had access to traditional learning opportunities for a wide number of reasons. Whilst any system that is entirely dependant on the speed and reliability of an internet connection will never be entirely accessible to all, advancements in technology are making online education increasingly more accessible globally. In many areas with limited connectivity, the majority of learners access distance learning via mobile devices rather than laptops. Educators and trainers will start to create much more mobile-optimized content for this reason.

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Focus on: Increased accessibility in higher education

Accessibility has many facets. One aspect of remote learning is that, unlike traditional classrooms, online programs can be delivered either in real-time or as asynchronous lessons. This benefits of this for learners are enormous and were one of the aspects highlighted in the research published by Dr Adam Jeffrey et al in their paper “Thinglink and the Laboratory: Interactive Simulations of Analytical Instrumentation for HE Science Curricula”
You can read a summary of the findings as well as a case study here.

Another benefit of creating high quality online learning materials is that they can provide access to otherwise inaccessible locations and sites. In the ThingLink case study Virtual Field Trips for Post Grads, we showed how an academic at Queen’s University Belfast was able to increase the number of students on his course when providing virtual international field trips for the first time whilst coronavirus restrictions were in place.
Further reading for Higher Education: How to ncrease enrollment with a virtual tour of your college or university campus

Online learning can provide more personalized learning

Online platforms can leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to analyze learner data and provide personalized e-learning experiences. This includes adaptive learning paths, customized content, and tailored feedback, catering to individual needs and learning styles.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

These technologies have the potential to transform online learning formats by creating immersive and interactive environments. VR and AR can simulate real-world scenarios, allowing learners to practice skills and explore concepts in a more engaging and practical manner. For training in high-risk environments where safety is paramount and equipment is high-value, this is a highly cost-effective learning method that ensures students are up to speed before being placed in the real environment for the first time.
We summarise some key findings in this paper: How effective is training using VR and AR?

Blended Learning will become far more commonplace

Blending online and offline learning approaches is becoming more prevalent. The future may see a combination of online courses and in-person experiences to create a well-rounded educational experience. This approach can provide flexibility while still offering hands-on, face-to-face or collaborative activities. There are some innovative learning environments that incorporate the best elements of VR and in-person learning, creating a collaborative virtual classroom. Igloo Vision for example provide in-person immersive spaces for engaging shared virtual reality experiences.

Gamification will continue to play a key role in online learning

Incorporating game elements into online learning can enhance engagement and motivation. Gamified learning experiences often include rewards, challenges, and progress tracking, making the learning process more enjoyable and encouraging learners to stay motivated. One example of this approach is the growth of online and virtual escape rooms which we covered in our blog How to Make a Virtual Escape Room.

Growth of collaborative learning

Online learning platforms are increasingly integrating features that foster collaboration among learners. This includes discussion boards, group projects, and peer-to-peer learning. The future may see further enhancements in these areas to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing. In this blog we showed how schools across Hungary collaborated online to create a joint virtual exhibition together.

Microlearning and bite-sized content

Short, focused lessons or microlearning modules are gaining popularity. This approach provides learners with easily digestible content that can be consumed in smaller chunks, fitting into busy schedules and catering to short attention spans.

Skill-based and lifelong learning

Online learning is well-suited for acquiring specific skills and knowledge, enabling individuals to upskill or reskill throughout their careers. The future may see an increased emphasis on skill-based learning, catering to the evolving needs of the job market and supporting lifelong learning journeys.

Recognition of online learning will increase

Online learning is increasingly recognized and accepted by employers and educational institutions. The future may witness the development of standardized and universally recognized credentials for online learning achievements, ensuring their value and credibility.

In summary: what is the future of online learning?

The covid-19 pandemic certainly brought online learning to mainstream attention and put traditional education under the spotlight. A blended approach that combines the best aspects of online and offline learning is likely to be the most widely adopted model in the future – one that is collaborative, gamified, personalized and highly accessible.

For more insights and innovative use cases by our global community of content creators, why not join one of our social media groups such as the ThingLink LinkedIn community?

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