Online Learning has revolutionized modern education. Older generations still have vivid memories of their days spent in classrooms – the smell of chalk, the taste of school lunches, the sound of friends laughing on school corridors, the texture of crumpled paper, and that feeling of excitement on the first day of classes.
Memories such as these are ingrained on our brains, and we can laugh about these things when Homecoming comes.
The internet, however, has started to change how we approach communication and education. Cyberspace has introduced the concept of online learning; and so, what we remember of our school days 20 or so years ago, would be vastly different than what the younger generations’ will remember of their school days in the future.
Education: The Internet as an Educational Tool
For starters, traditional schools have started to use the internet as a tool in recent years, particularly Google classroom, to educate students. In August 2017, Google announced that students had submitted 1 billion assignments using the app since its inception three years earlier.
The NY Times, in an earlier report, stated that more than 30 million primary and secondary students use Google education apps in school.
Kids today use Google Docs (an online word processor) to write school essays. This alone is quite a significant change. Compare that to 15 years ago; students would have used Microsoft Word. 30 years ago? They would have used pencil and paper.
Meanwhile, parents, who have access to the school’s Student Information Systems (SIS), can always log-in and check their kids’ grades, attendance, and other information made available by the school.
Using these Student Information Systems, educational institutions have started to use less paper in maintaining data and information and shifted to online management of its administrative files and records.
Even professors and teachers have joined in this “paperless revolution,” as many of them prepare lecture notes that are downloadable online, and would require students to submit school work digitally via email.
Online Learning: Learn Everything Online
We can see how schools have started to use the internet as a tool in the traditional setting of teaching.
In recent years, many institutions have upped the ante by starting to use the internet as a “classroom” in itself. These schools, colleges, and universities are now offering Internet-based Distance Learning Programs, E-learning programs, and Open University Programs. Graduates of which are given certificates, diplomas, undergraduate, master’s, and/or doctorate degrees. Lectures in these programs are done via web conferencing or live streaming, among others, and School work is submitted mostly via email.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), on the other hand, are online courses which mirror traditional courses in colleges and universities, with subjects ranging from “Introduction to Programming” to “International Law”.
These MOOCs have no set number of students (enrollment ranges from hundreds to hundreds of thousands) and are accessible online. Most of these courses are free. Some though require payment (still a hell of a lot cheaper than going to a University). Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, and edX are among the few examples of MOOCs.
MOOCs are under attack, however, because of its poor completion rates. In 2015, the average completion rate of a MOOC was only 15%.
Private Online Courses for Individual Education Online
An offshoot of MOOCs are Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs), with a limited number of participants and a tailor made-curriculum. With SPOCs, hopefully completion rates would at least be higher than MOOCs.
Specialized websites offering short-term courses are also popular. For instance, Ctrlpaint.com offers lessons on digital painting, while Copyblogger.com teaches content marketing. There are millions of choices for these kinds of sites, teaching all kinds of specialized skills.
Then there’s Youtube with its billions of videos. Many of the videos are educational or tutorial in nature, teaching a variety of subjects. Want to learn Korean? Type in “Learn Korean.” Click search, and voila – a bunch of videos for you to choose from.
Online Learning Creates Job Opportunities
With all of these options made available, many “online students”, have shifted careers, or have started freelance gigs on the side. This is especially true in the area of software development, where employment is expected to grow by 24% until the year 2026 because of continued demand for computer software.
Don’t know how to code? Join an online coding course, practice, improve, and get a job.
Freecodecamp.org alone has 8,000 camper graduates who got their first developer jobs in its three years of existence.
Want to have photoshop skills? Lynda.com offers more than 700 design courses for you to choose from.
Many of the jobs posted online focus more on the applicant’s portfolio rather than the applicant’s formal academic background. So competition has shifted from academic credentials to portfolio showcases.
What’s in Store for the Future of Education and Online Learning
The current state of online learning is not without its negatives. Critics, for instance, have continuously pointed out the low completion rates of online courses.
But as MOOCs and other online learning modules are getting refined and tweaked, one can safely expect that enrollment in these courses will steadily increase.
Indeed, online learning has made the internet the new classroom.
It has made education more accessible, and affordable to the masses, and the trend will continue in the years to come.