The online learning industry has undergone significant growth since the start of the global pandemic. And even after the virus recedes and life returns to some degree of normalcy, online learning will continue to be a massive industry with huge potential. The Growth of Online Learning Education and learning have been affected by the pandemic more than most. From elementary school to college to continuing education, every corner of this industry has been forced to shift and weave to accommodate challenges, risks, and evolving needs. And what we’ve seen is a massive movement away from classroom-based learning and toward online learning. “Overnight you had an entire sector become significantly more validated,” says Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy. “The biggest areas of growth you saw were in K-12 and higher education, where people that have traditionally been teaching in classrooms, all of them had to use new technology tools and move online in order to survive a pandemic. Those sectors grew demonstrably.” According to one study, the increase in distance education enrollments grew by 93 percent from the Fall of 2019 to the Fall of 2020. During the height of the pandemic, 85 percent of colleges moved courses to “emergency remote learning.” And while some have returned to full classroom-based curriculum, 59 percent plan to continue offering some remote learning offerings even after the pandemic ends. And it’s not just traditional education that we’ve seen shift online. The same trends are consistent throughout other areas of learning, like continuing education and employee training within both small businesses and large corporations. Top Trends to Keep an Eye On A lot has changed since the start of the pandemic until now. However, many of the online learning shifts have continued to evolve to the point that we now consider them “normal.” Here are several of these trends:
- Bite-Sized Learning
It’s no secret that attention spans are extremely limited. In fact, there was one recent study that suggests goldfish now have a longer average attention span than humans. Blame it on whatever you want – including social media and smartphones – but that’s what we’re experiencing. And the ramifications of dwindling focus are felt throughout every industry, including learning. In response, we’re seeing an increase in bite-sized learning. Research shows 94 percent of online students prefer short educational modules, while 65 percent believe educators try to pack too much information into a single module. In response, we’re seeing people take multiple “short” courses instead of one “large” course. This also makes online learning more convenient, as it’s possible to complete a course in a week and then take a break before starting the next one.
- Continuing Education…Available Anywhere
Many professionals see continuing education (CEU) as the bane of their existence – an annoying box that they have to check off. And it’s even more frustrating when they have to use their nights and weekends to physically go to a classroom and sit through hours of instruction. (In many cases, single parents have to line up child care just to make this happen.) But here’s one positive trend: More and more CEU programs – like Last Minute CEU’s – are going online for totally remote 24/7 learning that happens on the student’s time. This turns continuing education from a source of frustration to a source of growth and learning that professionals can enjoy.
- Soft Skills Improvement
Here’s an interesting statistic for you: The demand for soft skills courses increased by an astonishing 4,000 percent in 2020. In other words, it’s not just the hard, technical skills that professionals are after. They also want to improve their ability to listen, communicate, focus, show empathy, persuade others, etc. That seems to be an encouraging sign.
- Free College Courses
As the cost of college education rises, there’s a deep sense of frustration among many that the elite are getting smarter and the lower and middle classes are left to fend for themselves. But to close some of this gap, many colleges and universities are offering free courses online. And while students don’t actually get college credit for these classes, they still get access to all of the materials just the same. Even Harvard University has some free courses! Learning Revolutionized The pandemic didn’t necessarily force the education and learning industry to do anything that it wasn’t already prepared to do. It just made it happen a lot faster. Most expected online learning to become a more dominant force at some point in the next five years, but it happened in the span of 30 days, rather than several years. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see what the long-term effects of this shift are.