Online Learning

5 Ways Online Learning Has Changed in the Past 5 Years

As everyone knows, the Internet is constantly in a state of flux. New technology emerges, new coding tricks are learnt, and everything becomes obsolete thirty seconds after being ‘the next big thing.’ Events in the real world have a massive effect as well, resulting in online learning having to change and adapt drastically over the last few years.

With the massive leaps in video communication, programs like Skype allow instant face-to-face communication between whole groups of people, making teleconferencing accessible to anyone with a webcam and a halfway-decent Internet connection. This has made face-to-face delivery of key lectures much easier, as well as helping those who respond better to audio-visual styles of teaching and instruction. It also enables classmates to build a sense of community, becoming more than just lines of text on a screen, and providing a valuable tool for socializing and idea-swapping.

Skype’s new audio-visual learning ability comes only a few years after podcasts first made a massive audio breakthrough, allowing thousands of students to listen to courses through their iPods. Language and literature degrees in particular benefited from the new trend, while Apple’s other major new toy, the iPhone, has been the recipient of several programs designed to make online learning much easier, and allowing students to work on their degrees while traveling. This new mobile form of learning has opened several new avenues of exploration for a lot of distance learning institutions, and many people are waiting to see what the next big technological impact will be. Some institutions are focusing on networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, while others are trying to push podcasts even further, possibly even adding video to them.

The current economic downturn is prompting thousands of people back into training and education in a bid to bolster resumes, improve skill bases and keep their current abilities up to scratch. This has led to a massive flood in the number of online learners, and also the formation of several unaccredited ‘diploma factory’ companies seeking to exploit the rush.

However, it hasn’t all been sweet and lovely. With the economic recession has come a drastic cut in loans and financing available from privately held institutions, forcing many students to work extra hours in order to finance their further studies. Although federal loans are still available to students on distance-learning courses, this is slowly being scaled back and the number of students qualifying is decreasing.

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