Technology is a key factor in the changing way students both want to acquire and access education. Online learning is flexible and accessible and removes the barriers often associated with traditional classroom learning. As a result, mobile accessibility is contributing to the largest growth in online course enrolment into colleges and universities as students are no longer bound by a scheduled programme. Indeed, mobility and the internet have enabled students to be more selective about when and where they choose to be educated as well as providing collaborative opportunities with a wider audience of colleagues, experts and tutors both nationally and internationally.
Technology is also changing the type and complexity of work that graduates will encounter in the workplace. Clearly, there will be more interaction between humans and machines and this will need to be reflected in the courses offered to students. Businesses are already adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and this will encroach into e-learning. Already, uses of AI in chatbots are advising students what courses might be suitable or providing additional links that might fill a specific knowledge gap on a topic. The technology is also likely to reduce the burden of simple administrative tasks for tutors such as providing schedules or test results. Algorithms may also be used to spot areas where students are struggling in certain test areas and help to redefine the course information accordingly as well as helping to personalise the learning. Many analysts predict that AI will be a growing trend in shaping education and, in particular, online.
Mobile friendly is now becoming very important for e-learners. According to data in November 2018 from Statista the share of mobile internet traffic amounted to 48.2% and is still growing. Therefore, online educational providers will need to ensure that their content can be delivered successfully on mobile devices to take advantage of the way students want to consume information. Video content will continue to play an important role in disseminating knowledge and is certainly here to stay.
Whilst online learning has many advantages, it’s still not a replacement for the traditional classroom. The opportunity to talk with fellow students or engage face-to-face with a teacher still has many merits. Students naturally learn from one another while solving problems and working collaboratively in a traditional classroom. Of course, teachers can also benefit from the use of e-learning tools as they can provide instant feedback on how a student is engaging with content. Less time spent on marking workbooks provides more opportunity for teacher and student involvement.
It would seem however, that there is clearly a case for both on-line and traditional classroom learning to work alongside each other, compensating for one where the other lacks, rather than being viewed as competition.