There was a time not too many years ago when online learning was viewed with suspicion. That’s no longer the case today. Online university courses like FutureLearn by the BBC has hundreds of thousands of students enrolled from 153 different countries today, participating in interactive free courses as diverse as Forensic Psychology from the Open University to Start Writing Fiction and a beginner’s course in Robotics offered by the University of Reading. Students engage in discussions, take quizzes and can even obtain a certificate of participation.
This is just one example of what has come to be known as the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses). In the US, Harvard joined this eLearning trend by opening up online videos of real-life lectures to over 36,000 students.
But this is only the beginning. In the future, things are likely to evolve with changing technologies. One thing is for sure. If you’re looking for an investment option, invest in online learning. Informal learning is bound to grow in the coming years. Let’s take a look at some possible scenarios of the future.
Online learning will no longer be free
Of course this is the first and natural prophecy anyone will make about the format. As of now, it’s possible to provide free courses because the word is not out there yet. The majority of people aren’t aware of these courses. When they do become aware and demand grows, it will no longer be practical to keep many of these programs free. The fees will go towards paying for instructors, technology and so on. Content providers will eventually have to enrich their courses with discussions, wikis etc.
There will be more open educational resources
There are a lot of learning resources on the internet for everyone to access. There are open libraries where you can sign up for free and check out books using the excellent and free Adobe Digital Editions or similar checkout software. A lot of the authoritative documents and media that is available in databases like JSTOR and other institutional libraries have user restrictions on them. In the future, it is likely that more Open Educational Resources will be available freely as the role of the educator will no longer be restricted only to college classrooms. This will apply not only to resources for school and college-level academics but also corporate training and customer service training etc.
Mobile devices will facilitate learning as well
Very soon, undoubtedly, people will be able to access online courses via their mobile devices. Tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices offer not just mobility but access to cameras, compasses, apps and more that students will be able to utilize and even learn on the field. In 2017, the distinctions between formal and informal learning is still there but slowly blurring. In the future, there will be little to no difference between the credibility of online courses and classroom courses as technology gets more advanced.
Virtual technologies will have a huge impact on eLearning
One of these advanced techs that we’re already finding a lot of potential in is the VR glasses. Offices are considering replacing office monitors with VR glasses to make work fun and immersive. Architects are using VR to better visualize their ideas before building. It won’t be long before the endless possibilities of virtual reality is utilized for more immersive learning experiences.
It’s time to get rid of all our preconceived notions about distance learning. If we are to keep up, we must embrace online learning as a development that’s here to stay.