The global pandemic caused a significant disruption in the education space, shifting away from the classroom to online. As a result, schools, universities and educational establishments were forced to shut their doors worldwide. We saw new e-learning platforms and mobile technologies emerge, enhancing individuals’ learning experience. The question is, is this new wave of education here to stay?
The evolution of online learning
Even before the global pandemic, there was high growth and adoption of education technology, with global edtech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019 and the overall market for online education projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum.1
As the internet has evolved and technology has improved during the late 90s, we’ve seen the education industry slowly move online, starting with websites that assist with learning to full-scale courses and qualifications. We’ve also seen online educational materials become more sophisticated by introducing audio and video-based lectures, with many platforms now offering interactive functionality to enhance the learning experience.
There continues to be a debate around whether online learning can replace the value of traditional classroom settings. Perhaps a mixed learning environment where virtual and physical education can occur is the ultimate sweet spot for individuals.
What are the benefits of online learning?
Although many educational institutions were forced to move online, it has brought many benefits to students worldwide, and it is hard to foresee how we would ever go back to a world where online learning wasn’t an option.
- Greater accessibility – online learning has enabled students worldwide to log on, connect with, and learn from lecturers and teachers from the comfort of their homes. This removes barriers of location, living costs of moving away from home to study, and the tuition, driving greater accessibility which means we can upskill and educate more people than ever before.
- Provides more options to everyone – Given individuals can now access and study online, this has opened up a whole host of opportunities and possibilities for studying different courses and topics from the broad to the very niche. This has also provided a more powerful platform for educators to share their knowledge online across many platforms, including TikTok.
- Caters to all learning styles – Much research has demonstrated that not everybody learns and studies effectively in the same ways. Some people thrive in a classroom setting, while others don’t. The move to online learning has opened up new styles and patterns of working (for example, webinars, podcasts and virtual events) that can cater for a larger audience and help those individuals to feel comfortable and succeed.
- Greater flexibility – Flexibility has been a hot topic for the past few years. Many individuals seek career and educational opportunities to work around their other commitments such as family, caring, and work. Online learning has made this possible with everything offered online, from apprenticeship courses to MBAs.
The future of online learning
In a society where flexible working and technology has become the norm, it’s difficult to see how we could ever go back to normal. So, where does this leave the future of education? With the rise in virtual technologies and mobile learning, we will see future developments making online education even more accessible and engaging than it is today.2 This will allow many more people to gain qualifications and skills in high demand today and ultimately will positively impact the economy, given individuals can quite easily self-develop.