The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in the usage of online educational tools, with numerous individuals taking advantage of these resources to expand their expertise, especially those with demanding jobs. According to Encoura, an educational technology company, there was a 370% increase in the number of course registrations on Coursera for all subject areas by March 2023. Additionally, popular platforms such as edX and Udacity have seen a significant rise in popularity.
As a result of job losses, decreased working hours, and limitations on working remotely, workers are now faced with more leisure time. Furthermore, factors unrelated to the pandemic, such as advancements in the quality and accessibility of online education, may also be contributing to this trend.
For professionals like software engineers who offer IT outsourcing services, online education has proven to be highly advantageous. Working individuals are using online learning to their benefit, whether for personal interests, leisurely activities, or professional development due to its convenient nature. Below, we examine some of the main factors contributing to this trend.
Although technology for online education has made significant strides, there is still space for progress. Works is one such software firm that can design custom applications to fulfil specific needs.
Educators can now utilise a variety of tools to establish virtual classrooms, allowing them to disseminate and evaluate digital material, track individual student progress, and facilitate collaborative learning. Zoom offers users the ability to electronically signal for attention or separate into smaller groups to encourage discussion.
Instructors can also foster student-led discussions beyond the designated class time by creating online forums. These forums can be particularly advantageous for adult students who have demanding schedules, such as those with familial obligations or full-time jobs, since they do not need real-time participation and students can contribute during their available free time.
As per the OECD, “online learning permits learners to select a time, speed, and location that is best suited to their work and family obligations.”
In addition, modern technological resources may be advantageous in the classroom. Machine learning algorithms can detect patterns, enabling them to customise information for each individual user. As noted by Forbes blogger Ilker Koksal, “the platform can modify the e-learning content when a student is having difficulty with a particular topic.
Modifications to the Classroom
Educators who were unfamiliar with digital instructional methods had to swiftly adjust to the new situation created by the pandemic. Some of the most notable adjustments they have made are outlined below:
- Ensuring that digital resources, like slide presentations, are readable on screens of all dimensions.
- Students who are unable to attend a specific session have the option to watch recorded lectures at a later time.
- Utilising freely accessible resources to bolster their own work.
- Maintaining student interest and participation in class through the use of interactive activities.
- Providing virtual “office hours” during which students who are struggling can ask questions.
- Encouraging involvement and facilitating discussions.
The video below explores the numerous ways in which combining technology and teaching methods can improve the learning experience for students:
‘Massive Open Online Courses’, or MOOCs, are available on Coursera. When these courses were initially offered about a decade ago, they drew a substantial number of students, although some struggled with the online format.
The New York Times reports that online education companies are rapidly expanding. It is estimated that the ‘nano degrees’ provided by a handful of educational institutions take between four to six months and cost approximately £1,200 to complete. This indicates that these organisations have attained valuable knowledge that could serve as a model for school districts and other organisations transitioning to a virtual learning environment.
The recent pandemic has presented novel opportunities for individuals to enhance their education. A wide range of resources is at hand for those who want to hone their personal and professional abilities during this time. In spite of the challenges posed by the current circumstances, it is crucial to keep in mind the potential for progress and advancement.
Koksal’s claim that “elite colleges are democratising education by providing online access to courses” is supported by the diverse array of courses provided by both Harvard University and Stanford University. These courses encompass domains including computer science, engineering, mathematics, business, the arts, and personal growth.
Change in Perspective
While some have called for a four-year on-campus program, Harvard Business Review has raised the question of whether such a program is essential. The tone of the inquiry seemed to imply that, in certain circumstances, the response might be no. There are digital substitutes that can take the place of some components of the traditional college experience; for example, lectures that don’t necessitate human interaction can be captured as multimedia presentations.
These modifications are perhaps more pertinent to individuals preparing to enrol in college than to those already employed. Nonetheless, alterations in the delivery of higher education may have far-reaching effects. In certain situations, hybrid models that marry online and in-person interaction may be more feasible and economical for older adults.
A Bracing Pedagogical Shake-Up
A number of the recent changes have arisen because of the pandemic, but some of them may have been required regardless. It is unfortunate that many individuals are unable to obtain higher education due to financial limitations, and even if they can, they may encounter difficulties repaying their student loans upon completion of their studies owing to a dearth of job prospects in their desired area of work.
Online education can aid in resolving both of these problems by reducing the cost of higher education and enhancing accessibility to training for desirable jobs. Factors such as reduced course fees, the availability of a plethora of course materials for free online, and the absence of travel expenses such as petrol and parking fees, make online education potentially more economical than traditional forms of education.
According to Justin Da Rosa of Battery Ventures, advancements in online education are becoming increasingly cost-effective, accessible, scalable, and customised for skills that employers desire.
Developing a Strategy for the New Normal
As we all adapt to the new environment, some are utilising the extra time to explore educational options. With online courses, individuals can refine their proficiencies and expand their education without jeopardising their safety by visiting physical institutions. When compared to more classical forms of education, online courses are more budget-friendly, accessible, and demand less time commitment.