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The field of education has undergone some seismic changes over the past few decades as it has been closely following developments in the business landscape.

It would be impossible to leave technology out of this equation as it’s one of the major disruptors not only in business and education but also in our everyday lives.

Online education is on the rise as reflects the disruptive potential of digitization and technology in shaping the modern workplace, which is why it’s essential to keep pace with its latest trends.

To put things into perspective, it’s worth mentioning that 68% of online students are experienced professionals. In other words, this method of education allows people who have already established a certain career path to explore new possibilities and advance.

In order to better leverage online education and eLearning and its advantages, it’s essential to monitor current trends and make the most of them.

1) Tech Giants Have Entered the Education Dollar Race

We’re already witnessing a number of jobs being obliterated by automation technologies, smart algorithms, and artificial intelligence. For example, AI-powered chatbots are expected to replace humans in customer support centers, although not entirely, while their manufacturing counterparts robotic process automation (RPA) machines – cobots, already dominate the manufacturing industry.

Even though both chatbots and cobots reach their full potential when they are working in tandem with their human co-workers, a lot of people will lose jobs because of this technological evolution.

On the other hand, tech companies are faced with talent scarcity and have an increasing demand for skilled professionals capable of filling new positions. As traditional education clearly has a problem staying on top of this need and provide work-ready graduates who would be onboarded quickly and easily, tech companies have decided to create their own certification programs and teaming up with traditional colleges to offer the training needed for the latest technologies.  

Google is one of the trailblazers in this approach, as it designed a string of different online and in-person training programs and courses for educating and training various tech professionals from developers to data analysts. Its online IT support certificate program managed to attract 75,000 applicants.

Similarly, Amazon joined this race and announced that it would spend $700 million over a period of six years in an attempt to keep its 100,000 employees by expanding its own post-secondary training and credential programs. But, this isn’t an act of generosity but a way to overcome the challenges of a highly competitive job market and have a skilled workforce available for their future demands.

2) Adaptive Learning Will Be Even More Relevant  

We live in an age of personalization.

Marketing, business, customer service, you name it.  Different industries strive to offer personalized experiences to their customers, and the situation is similar in education.

Traditional learning techniques that relied on the exact same textbooks and learning materials were inefficient, as they failed to address peculiarities, needs, performance, and learning methods of individual students. For example, some people are visual types, and they’re more likely to memorize and learn the information presented through images and videos.

Also, it might take someone 30 minutes to understand and memorize a certain scientific concept, while another person might struggle with the same concept for a couple of hours. That’s why the key to a successful learning process lies in taking into consideration everyone’s speed, accuracy, and quality of learning.

Adaptive learning is an algorithm-driven approach that provides personalized learning through efficient, effective, customized learning modules tailored to every individual student.

In other words, this technique delivers personalized learning experiences and meets learners’ needs.

Given that online learning usually leverages digital platforms and tools, it allows for implementing smart algorithms that can be programmed to use the right format, pace, and materials with regards to individual students’ performance.

3) The Rise of Video-Based Learning

The human brain is capable of processing and identifying entire images within just 13 milliseconds.

This fact proves that people learn much more efficiently with the help of video-based content. The nature of this format is more engaging and easier to consume and digest.

Videos easily capture learners’ attention and they’re effortlessly delivered through a learning management system, which makes them perfect for online learning.

Insisting that learning materials should come in a format that’s easy on the eyes and mind completely makes sense if we bear in mind a couple of interesting stats.

According to a research study, the human brain is exposed to 34GB of information on a daily basis, so it basically has to process a deluge of data in the form of emails, books, newspapers, TV shows, music, etc.

For the sake of accuracy, it’s worth mentioning that this study was conducted a few years ago, meaning that this information overload most probably increased exponentially.

No wonder that the average attention span dropped to a mere 12 seconds.

It’s not hard to conclude why video isn’t an optional but mandatory tool in education these days. Besides, let’s not forget that mobile devices make it possible for people to watch videos while they’re commuting or waiting in lines. This, in turn, means that they can use this time more productively and take advantage of on-the-go training.

Finally, video is a great format for bite-size learning, an approach that prevents burying learners under an avalanche of information and keeps mental burnout at bay.

4) Personal Development and Soft Skills Will Continue to Dominate

Traditional education has always been more focused on acquiring academic, hard skills.

However, with the rise of corporate learning, the idea of leadership, and collaboration, soft skills have begun to gain momentum.

When that seemingly subtle difference between a leader and a manager was pinpointed, it became clear that a new approach to learning should emphasize polishing interpersonal skills, learning how to communicate effectively, and overcome potential conflicts in the workplace.

It’s soft skills that most successful companies are after, to the extent that 67% of managers would rather pick a candidate with strong soft skills even if their hard skills leave much to be desired.

An employee well-versed in this regard is expected to navigate the changing workplace and be more prepared for their professional role. Online education tackles this issue properly as there are a number of courses and training programs that revolve around gaining leadership, collaboration, problem-solving, teamwork, motivation, or time-management skills.

Moreover, the expansion of digital technologies and new work requirements have brought about a shift towards merging these two skill-sets and integrating a component of technology into non-tech positions and vice versa.

These so-called hybrid skills can’t be defined out of a context, but they refer to a combination of technical and non-technical skills.

In other words, back in the day, an administrative support employee’s role revolved around greeting visitors, picking up the phone, and organizing files. However, nowadays such a professional is expected to be pretty eclectic as they need to understand how to properly use social media, update websites, create presentation materials, and be proficient in using database software.

Similarly, a good application developer isn’t someone who can successfully write code. Employers are looking for those capable of communicating their ideas clearly and effectively, writing copy, solving problems as they emerge, understanding users’ challenges and implementing their feedback, as well as adapting to new and upgraded platforms.

5) Learning From Top Experts Has Become Possible

World-class experts do not limit themselves to lecturing in the most prestigious universities these days.

Advanced technology has made them more accessible to the global audience of learners, which is one of the most important legacies of online learning.

Some 20 years later, students who wanted to learn from distinguished experts had to get into prestigious universities, which wasn’t an easy task.

Luckily, nowadays, apart from holding teaching positions at Harvard, Yale, or Cambridge, renowned pundits can expand their reach and influence all around the world.

Apart from transcending geographical boundaries, the latest tech also enables practical online teaching and learning.

5G technology is about to disrupt the way we do things. With its near-zero latency, this network will, for example, make remote surgeries possible. One such exceptional effort already happened when Chinese doctors inserted a stimulation device into the brain of a Parkinson’s patient who at the time of this surgery was situated almost 2,000 miles away.

This opens the doors not only to the improvement of people’s lives for better but also to unlocking the potential of online learning. Learners will be able to get the best possible practice even if they’re not physically present in the same classroom, or operating theater, as their teachers and mentors.

As a result, online education allows for the democratization of knowledge.

It can’t be denied that traditional education is in a way elitist – the best faculties and courses are gated and available only to those who are either affluent and capable of covering sky-high tuitions or exceptional talents.

On the other hand, online education breaks down such barriers and provides an opportunity for many people to benefit from world-class teachers at an affordable price, at their own pace, and regardless of where they live.

6) Online Education Drives Lifelong Learning  

There’s no excuse for not practicing lifelong learning in this day and age when jobs emerge and disappear even as we speak.

Getting a college degree doesn’t mean that you’re done with being a student. Quite the opposite, as your career progresses, it’s essential to keep pace with the latest trends and developments in your area of expertise.

And that’s where online education comes in handy.

Namely, it can be difficult to squeeze additional lessons in your busy schedule while working full time, so the flexibility of distance education offers you to do both without having to quit or give up on your lifelong learning idea.

A wide variety of courses and programs allow people with a degree to expand their knowledge and keep updating their skills through years and ensure that they never lose a competitive edge; at the same time, those who haven’t earned a degree in a particular field can do so, without having to go back to school physically.

Employees who think about a career change don’t have to jeopardize their security by leaving their current job until they make the full transition and obtain all the necessary skills for such a challenging professional leap.

7) The Power of Gamification

Gamification isn’t a new concept as it has been around for quite some time.

A majority of today’s labor force consists of millennials and Gen Zers combined. Both these demographic cohorts are prolific when it comes to technology, and the latter is even dubbed “the first digital natives” as they were born into a world where the internet already existed.

This is important to bear in mind because these young people are very familiar with gamification as many of them grew up playing video games and using smartphones. That’s why it’s logical that gamification should be incorporated into corporate education.

However,  this technique doesn’t only add fun to the process of learning – its true power comes from the fact that gamification provides people with a safe learning environment in which they aren’t afraid to take risks and are motivated through positive reinforcement.

Earning badges, collaborating with their peers, and competing makes learners feel a sense of accomplishment.

New technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) take gamification to a whole new level as with them learners have an opportunity to experience real-life situations, interact with each other, and practice safely. With the help of VR, for example, medical students can perform virtual operations and procedures in an immersive but consequence-free environment.

Gamification boosts engagement and allows learners to acquire new skills effectively, and it’s naturally integrated into online education.

These seven trends have a tremendous impact on online education at the moment, and will definitely affect the academic and professional careers of learners. Both educators and students who want to be ahead of the curve should follow the latest developments and embrace online education.

Written By
Michael is the man behind Qeedle , a marketing and business hub aimed at helping SMB owners and startups get their hang of the business world. He has been working as what is often called a "marketing execute" for over a decade and has been in a love-hate relationship with the job for about five.

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