The popularity of virtual learning was exploding even before the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted all elements of society. According to Research and Markets in 2019, the online education market was forecasted to reach $350 billion by 2025. Widespread school and university closures in response to the pandemic has only increased demand, and more and more students are using remote solutions to complete their educations and learn new skills.
Highly demanded college prerequisites are available remotely, such as the Ontario Virtual School’s grade 12 calculus and vectors course online. World-class institutions, famed for their in-person educational resources are even getting involved, both Stanford and Harvard are providing online access to courses in a variety of disciplines. It looks like it’s here to stay, many students see themselves continuing to use remote-learning after social distancing restrictions are lessened.
Why eLearning is So Attractive
So why is online-learning so attractive to students? There are as many reasons as there are students. That’s one of the major strengths of online-learning, it allows students to structure their education in a way that reflects their circumstances.
Rather than having to cram a traditional school day into an already busy schedule, they can fit their education around their extracurricular activities, enabling them to develop their career while they study or craft that perfect college application.
Another advantage is that students can advance at their own pace: “[r]olling enrolments for courses and the flexibility to work on their own schedule help students who need extra time and attention get the support they need while offering students who progress more quickly the opportunity to expedite their coursework and credits,” says Alicia Cuzner, an Ottawa based teacher specializing in online-learning.
The New Normal
The world after COVID-19 is going to be very different from what we were used to. Certain skills are going to be in-demand, and they aren’t always valued in traditional learning environments. Online-learning is well-positioned to impart “soft” skills like collaboration, initiative, and self-directed learning. Students are encouraged to be self-reliant in a virtual classroom, taking responsibility for their success.
Whether the student wants to explore postsecondary pathways or enter into the workforce, this self-reliance is going to be critical in an increasingly de-centralized, remote workforce. Further, as remote work becomes an indelible part of the working environment, the development of organizational skills and time management becomes truly essential. These are skills that are emphasized during online learning. Students that encounter these skills early in their education are going to getting a head start in their careers.
Online learning is moving from a traditional “correspondence” based model to a more flexible, interactive approach. Innovative online-learning solutions promote collaboration, consensus-building, equitable work distribution, and communication skills with their peers. As developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning automate many elements of traditional work, these soft sills often become what marks high-value, successful workers.
With internet availability growing in rural areas through the adoption of 5G, remote learning is more accessible to all students. As technology progresses and devices become more affordable, eLearning will continue to play a key role in the educational toolkit. Students that come of age as “digital natives” will find online learning an accessible means to develop the skills they need to succeed.