Virtual learning was first introduced by University of Illinois in the 1960s. Many educational institutes began offering such courses by mid-1980s. However, these early programs did not use the internet-based technology. They worked by linking various computer servers on the campus. Jones International University was the first fully accredited, online university. It was established in 1993. Better access to internet and ease of learning has contributed immensely to the meteoric growth of this sector. Today, more than 2,500 colleges offer hundreds of online courses and programs to almost 6.1 million students just in the United States.
The phenomenal growth also comes with many questions. Many critics are worried about lack of strong fundamentals within the online education sector, and believe that this growth is not sustainable. Others predict a bright future for the industry. Here are 13 top future predictions in online education:
- More Growth – A recent report published by the research firm Ambient Insight suggests that the e-learning and online education sectors will see tremendous growth in the near future. Their annual income of 27.1 billion dollars in 2009 is expected to double by 2014.
- PreK-12 – A significant percentage of this growth will occur in the preK-12 education. Poor economy has delivered a severe dent to the country’s public school system. Many parents are turning to home schooling. Online schools are helping students and parents in a major way.
- Mobile and Cloud-based Learning – Students will move away from traditional computers, and shift to mobile devices such as tablets for their education. These devices will offer the convenience of learning from anywhere.
- e-Textbooks – The trend has already started. With the significant increase in the use of e-readers and tablets, many publishers are moving to e-books and e-textbooks as well. This market will grow significantly over the next few years, and soon the era of carrying bulky books to the classrooms will be gone.
- Improved Technology – With the advent of HTML5, the online program websites will be faster and more efficient. The communication between faculty members and students will improve. It will also be easier to administer and take tests.
- Gamification – New technologies have made it easy to design and build games. Games in e-learning are one of the 13 top future predictions in online education. They are popular among students, teachers and parents. They help teach important and complicated math and science concepts in a fun way, without overwhelming the student.
- Social Media – Social media websites are already playing a major role in communications. These email-killer technologies will continue to dominate the field of online education for the next few years.
- Voice Activation – Voice activation systems such as Evernote also make it to our list of 13 top future predictions in online education. Faculty members and students will use them to create lessons and to complete the assignments.
- More Courses – Most online colleges and universities offer programs in fields such as education, business, liberal arts, media communications, nursing and human services. Better technology and resources will help educators to offer more programs online. This will be beneficial to students, teachers, and to the online education sector in general.
- Globalization – Students will have greater access to degrees and programs from international universities as well. More choice and completion will strengthen the internal online education system as well.
- Video Posts – Many universities will start offering online programs on video blogging sites such YouTube. This will give the students a classroom experience from the convenience of their own home. The students can listen to the same lesson multiple times.
- Cost – Online programs are often expensive. However, increase in enrollment and improvement in technology may bring down the cost of certain online programs, especially those offered by non-profit institutions.
- Open Educational Resources – Open education resources conclude our list of 13 top future predictions in online education. There will be significant increase in websites and online resources containing free learning materials in hundreds of fields. While these resources do not offer a degree upon completion, they are great for working professional who wish to learn a particular skill without investing a lot of money or time in it.
- Campus technology – http://campustechnology.com/articles/2010/03/03/the-future-of-e-learning-is-more-growth.aspx
- Scitable – http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/bioscience-elearning/10_elearning_predictions_for_2012
- Technology for Teaching and Learning – http://wp.wpi.edu/atc-ttl/2012/04/05/trends-in-online-education-more-predictions/
- HuffingtonPost - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-hidary/online-distance-learning_b_1493319.html