The World has Changed
Events over the past few weeks have forced changes upon our society like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before.
Admittedly I grew up in the West, in a place untouched by hardship or war for the best part of a century. So it’s really striking how something as invisible, but insidious, as the Coronavirus can be so effective at pulling apart the seams of our routines and things we take for granted.
To speak of online education, eLearning and self-development might seem a little misplaced right now and maybe it is. After all, people all over the world are in peril, panic-buying in supermarkets to stock up or being put in serious danger of their lives.
But events at this time will pass, as they always do. We will all return to our normal routines. But hopefully, we will have been reminded of the fragility of our lives – and perhaps the need to keep some of the habits that have been instilled in us over recent times; whether it’s the increased need for vigilance over hygiene, or the change in our routines.
And it’s this change that leads me to a look at the biggest growing trend in learning, the move to an online curriculum.
Is online education the future?
Online education or eLearning is a catch-all term that includes anything from streaming video or watching live webinars, to fully immersive and interactive courses that are produced by specialist agencies for more niche audiences. For example, business education, Public Sector training or the need for ad-hoc learning due to legislation changes or product safety requirements.
These avenues to online development have been around for a while, in some form. But with the development of internet technology, the ubiquity of mobile devices, the increased need for learner-orientated, personalised training and the change in work practices, this need is ramping up fast.
The industry that provides courses online is expected to be worth $325B by 2025 (a growth of 8% p.a., according to Forbes), but this is also a trend that’s at the point of crossing over into the mainstream.
The rise of MOOC
Massive Open Online Courses is a term that has been traditionally applied to the online education sector. It’s something that has been around for decades, with the advent of online universities. But the alignment of the technological and sociological planets has boosted its growth enormously over the past few years.
Open platform giants such as Udemy, Skillshare and Coursera offer a broad range of courses that cater to almost any discipline. And there are plenty more up and coming platforms, such as ODEM and Doctrina that have content for topics, such as Blockchain, Healthcare and many others. All contribute to the growth of a booming market.
Is Face-to-Face training a thing of the past?
While this is all good news for the eLearning industry, spare a thought for the more traditional training partners or facilitators. These are the companies and individuals involved in training in face-to-face environments. Does the inexorable rise of online development spell the death of this industry segment?
The benefits of eLearning are that it fits the needs mentioned earlier. It is also much more cost-effective, with up to 70% saving when compared with Instructor-led training (IOMA 2002). Added to this, there is the ability to produce content rapidly, on an as-you-need basis. And of course, this is technology-driven, so there is an ability to measure, change and improve content when needed.
And there is also the proverbial ‘elephant-in-the-room’, of a reason – it’s perceptively and maybe actually, safer to conduct the majority of learning on a remote basis.
Over the past 5 years, the rise in MOOCs has been constant. The IFLA in their updated Trend Report predicts that in the next few years, revenue from online courses at one American university will be serving more learners than the combined provision of all the current physical courses at all of the universities – in the world.
However, there will certainly still be a need for Instructor-Led Training, albeit to a far lesser degree.
An element of this is known as The Flipped Classroom and is a type of blended-learning where students are introduced to the content at home and then practice what they have learnt in more of a traditional classroom or instructor-led setting.
The benefits of this approach are that it provides the best of both worlds, where social interaction, one-on-one personal guidance and incentives to meet deadlines are combined with the best aspects of online training as described above.
MOOC & blended-learning – who might benefit
With the transformation of the Education Sector being powered by the growth of MOOCs and blended-learning, as well as world events casting a spotlight on how we learn, is there any other sector that is set to benefit?
The simple answer is that most areas that require personal or professional development are set to benefit from the cost and flexibility benefits that online learning has to offer.
MOOC and blended types of learning are in-step with this trend and simply add fuel to the fire through the provision of courses in all and every subject area. This is especially pertinent in the light of recent events.
For example, there might be needs for:
- Banks and other financial institutions to provide additional online courses in response to changing customer needs, ie, the need for additional training around loan and credit options to small businesses struggling in the wake of the Coronavirus.
- Healthcare providers to upskill their practitioners on protective measures against similar epidemics in the future and thereby aid with the application of long-term changes in habits and customs.
- Travel companies, hotels or restaurants to offer more regular training on updated health and safety legislation or the building of additional skill sets to help improve commercial acumen and strategy. This could be especially important in an industry so badly hit by travel bans, accommodation occupancy declines and event cancellations.
The move towards online training, whether through traditional Corporate or Public Sector eLearning, MOOCs or a blended approach is a trend that has been and will continue to grow.
Recent world events have highlighted the benefits of this approach over a more social learning context and this is something that’s set to impact us even more due to the repercussions of the Coronavirus. The move towards a more flexible and unimpeded way of learning is now being called for in even greater numbers.
These are changing times, the lesson is a harsh one and things will probably never be quite the same as they were. But as eLearning providers, Training Instructors or Online Learning Platform developers, we are well placed to keep in perfect step with the changes.
And that’s some consolation at least.