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How the internet is changing higher education as we know it

11 Feb 16

Over the past two decades, the internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to pursue an affordable degree, for adults to continue their education in efforts to remain productive, and for universities to reach a greater number of people who want to learn, according to the Online Learning Consortium (OLC).

Infusing online learning into higher education provides educators with innovative ways to connect with students, wherever they are, and offers incredible, new career opportunities, says the OLC.

The OLC has recently released research on how the internet is shaking up tertiary education. Here are some of the key findings:

Enrollment is increasing: 50% more graduates are expected by 2020. Universities can’t accommodate the influx of students, so will go online. In fact, 70.8% see online learning as critical to their long-term strategy - this is up from 48.8% in 2002.

Classrooms are changing: Primary students learn keyboard skills over cursive handwriting. Nearly all secondary school students will get broadband access soon, regardless of income.

Furthermore, only 14% of university students will attend full time live on campus, 35% will switch colleges, 24% will attend three or more, and 42% will be 25 or older.

New types of educators are emerging: Advisors and mentors will digitally track and assess performance, while instructional technologists will pilot blended and flipped classes, and instructional designers will build and teach digital curricula and oversee MOOCs that thousands of students could enrol in.

The internet is making education more affordable: Government support for higher education is increasing as online courses drop in price. Universities often charge less for online courses. There’s talk of a $10k 4-year BA degree, and tuition-free online colleges are gaining popularity.

The workforce is also evolving: By 2020 more than 60% of jobs will require post-secondary education, and many workers will keep learning throughout their careers. Employers want more educated applications, and this means employees need targeted and affordable learning opportunities and institutions must develop curricula to train and retain workers.

There is a growing acceptance of online: Administrators are realising online is a great way to diversify revenue streams. On top of this, 74.1% of academics rated learning outcomes in online education as the same, or superior to those in face-to-face instruction, up from 57.2% in 2003. With students, online accounted for nearly 75% of tertiary education enrolment in 2015.

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