With millions of students enrolling in at least one online course, it should be no surprise that a recent Technavio study found that the online education market is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent until 2021.
As enrollment and investment in online education increases, the report claims that the industry owes a lot of this growth to mobile devices and increased desire for blended learning opportunities.
Mobile Devices and Immersive Technology Enter Online Classes
The Technavio research study found that the increased use of mobile devices is one of the primary factors in the growth of online education. With consumers clamoring for smartphones, tablets, iPads, Chromebooks and other devices, Technavio claims that more students are interested in pursuing online education because of this mobile access.
“With the high penetration of the internet, students use these devices to access assignments, lesson plans, and complete coursework,” reports the study. “Additionally, colleges and universities are also offering blended models of learning due to the increasing adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) policy.”
A recent survey from the Learning House and Aslanian Market Research found that a whopping 66 percent of online students use a mobile device to complete course activities.
The Technavio research also found that the increasing popularity of visual technologies like augmented and virtual reality is gaining traction in online education.
As a means of offering a blended learning experience, educators are using this kind of emerging technology to make the online experience more interactive.
“There are some interesting artificial intelligence and game design courseware offerings — training capabilities for criminal justice students looking at a crime scene and answering questions, or nursing students detecting what’s wrong with a patient,” says Jill Buban, the senior director of research and innovation at the Online Learning Consortium, in an EdTech article.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a nonprofit college specializing in aviation and aerospace, which was named the top online degree program by U.S. News & World Report, makes use of virtual labs and simulations to help students gain a “hands-on” experience they wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.
“As you can imagine, you can’t really provide airplanes for students to fly online. It’s required some creative approaches,” says Embry-Riddle CIO Becky L. Vasquez in an EdTech article.
While supporting use of mobile devices and embracing emerging technologies is an important component of furthering online education, Jill Leafstedt of California State University Channel Islands tells EdTech that above all, whatever technology is used in education must be used with students’ needs in mind.
“If you’re going to be successful in an online environment, it has to be about putting people first, not tools,” she says. “The platform and courseware are important — but we will lose a huge portion of students if we don’t keep the human connection.”