What Does the Future of Online Learning Hold?

October 9, 2018 by Tara Vasiljevic

Technology is all around us. In fact, it has quickly become an inseparable part of our everyday lives, and stating its clear intention to continue this rapid ‘takeover’. Actually, can you remember when was the last time you looked for a recipe in a cookbook instead of searching for it online? When was the last time you played a CD instead of listening to the music on Youtube? What about your personal knowledge? How many e-books have you read and online courses have you attended?

My journey with online learning started at a very early age and has transformed over time along with the advancement of information technologies. I still remember playing simple math games on the family 486 PC. Some years later, at high school, I started reading e-books. At the university, I attended online courses and conferences, etc.

Recently, my experience in online learning got a new dimension. A very important part of my job at the CEF is the development of online learning solutions for officials from Southeast Europe in the area of public finance management. The design and delivery of online courses and blended learning events (combination of online and face-to-face learning) has given me a unique overview of how information technologies can be used to support and enhance traditional learning methods. Being now exposed to the other side of the ‘screen’ – virtual interaction with students, learning about their ways of thinking and adopting information – lately got me into thinking about what does the future of online learning look like.

In this decade everything is online, then why not education?

It is inevitable that online learning has come to stay. Numbers show that eLearning is one of the fastest growing industries, facing the market growth rate of 900% over the past two decades. However, economic motives are not the only generator. Online learning proves to be more effective and less time consuming, which satisfies two of the highly ranked preferences of modern students. For example, the eLearning retention rates are between 25% and 60% which is significantly higher compared to the rates of face-to-face training (8% to 10%).

Lifelong learning and the future of work

Without blinking an eye, we can expect an increasing number of online learning users as a result of a need for continuous learning when building career in any field. Despite the initial education, which previously many thought to be sufficient for their career, the modern global society is witnessing a rush for refreshing and expanding the existing knowledge due to the magnitude and speed of changes. Therefore, one of the upcoming biggest changes for online learning will be how to engage the variety of users with different backgrounds, interests and needs.

Following the footsteps of the private sector, governments are expected to more actively internalize online learning opportunities for their employees, especially at the times when staff retention is challenging and fluctuation in public administration is high. Online learning would enable access to knowledge to a wider number of government officials (not only to few privileged to attend face-to-face trainings), continuous and up-to-date knowledge (attending courses can become prerequisite for career advancement), and with faster results and lower costs (online learning typically requires 40% to 60% less employee time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom setting).

Meet the chatbot, my new coach

The online environment allows access to a variety of knowledge at any time with a few clicks. We are able to read books and research papers, watch video lectures, comment on findings, and post questions on forums. However, the diversity of choices and abundance of information can also obstruct us. We no longer have time to wait for the answers, but want them now, right away and instantly. For that reason, it is safe to expect that chatbots are going to become our personal learning assistants.

A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation (i.e. chat) via text messages, and it is designed to simulate human behavior. Since its ‘brain’ is fed with the content available online, we can expect that it will appear to be not only like a human but also like an expert! A chatbot installed on a smartphone would help us get quick answers to questions, encourage us to learn, guide the learning process, give meaningful feedback, motivate us to repeat lessons before forgetting them, and so on. Putting all this together, chatbots are about to become our personal tutors and coaches, opening a future to a world of personalized education.

Living in an age where education is more accessible than ever before, we will increasingly find ourselves pursuing for new and fresh knowledge and skills. Just think of all the apps on your smartphone for learning languages or math, online courses that can get you a degree, and billions of pages of e-books … All the knowledge is already in your pocket and now it is up to you whether you will use it or ignore it. Are you part of the online learning revolution?

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