For centuries, most people considered the traditional classroom synonymous with receiving an education.
While technology has certainly evolved considerably from more than a millennium ago, the classroom environment has remained a constant. But that is slowly changing.
More and more, professional education that can offer insights into a new industry, provide foundational knowledge and hone niche skills is being accessed by students through online learning.
Since the earliest days of the Internet, people have been going online to learn new skills. However, in recent years, this capability has grown substantially, along with the public’s appreciation for its potential.
It’s become clear that online learning may soon become the preferred mode of education, eclipsing the longstanding classroom-based standard.
According to Pew, this is already beginning to happen. 23% of college graduates have taken an online course with it rising to 46% amongst recent graduates - almost half of those surveyed.
Online learning isn’t just finding popularity among students, either. It’s also finding plenty of enthusiastic adopters among companies.
Consider the following online learning statistics from HubSpot:
One of the most interesting statistics from this report is that 76% of professionals cite 'finding the time' the biggest challenge keeping them from pursuing ongoing training.
This is a major problem as ongoing learning is essential for employees if they are to continue pursuing ambitious career goals. It’s equally important for companies to nurture talent. No company thrives when their employees’ skills stagnate.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that so many companies are excited about the potential of online learning. They can invest in developing their employees’ potential without incurring the hassle of sending them to a classroom environment.
In fact, their employees can improve their skillsets at their own pace, ensuring education doesn’t get in the way of their normal duties.
One of the main benefits of an online classroom is that students can access it from anywhere. This includes on-the-go, which is especially important for employees who need to travel for work.
While that’s certainly a major benefit, it’s far from the only reason companies and academic institutions are interested in this developing opportunity. Here are 5 key reasons you can expect to experience an online classroom in the near future (if you haven’t already).
1. The Growing popularity of EdTech
EdTech refers to the marriage of education and digital age technology. Many people compare its impact to the type FinTech has had on the financial industry.
It’s not just making it more efficient. It’s democratizing it, as well. Like Fintech, edtech is poised to be nothing short of a massive disruption to a market that has been able to avoid evolution for decades at a time.
One explanation is simply that the kind of user-friendly technology necessary for this kind of disruption is now available. Students, employees, and instructors can leverage laptops, smartphones, and tablets to say nothing of the army of websites and platforms that exist for educational purposes.
In fact, tablets are already overtaking textbooks in schools. If they’re more popular in a traditional classroom, then they’re the obvious choice for companies wishing to invest in ongoing training.
Just as important, though, is the fact that Millennials now make up the majority of the U.S. workforce and as a generation surrounded by technology growing up are quick to adopt it.
This is why, by 2020, edtech could become a$20-billion industry. Between schools and companies, there is no shortage of demand for the potential that these burgeoning fields represent.
2. The Focus on Specific and Higher - Tier Subjects
For almost 30 years, the idea of receiving an education online suffered from the impression made by some of the initial efforts. In the 80s, commercial spots regularly touted the vague “benefits” of attending college from home.
Fortunately, online classrooms have come a long way in a short amount of time, which is why so many schools and companies have adopted them.
One example of this progress is how online classes are now available for advanced subjects. Where once they were largely seen as alternatives for taking requisite classes or, at best, acquiring an associate degree, an online classroom is just as likely to offer master level courses these days.
Many professionals are specialists. They don’t have the luxury of returning to the classroom in order to advance their careers. The courses either don’t exist because there isn’t sufficient demand or attending them would mean the professional has to uproot their entire lives to go live somewhere else.
Given how affordable it is to launch an online classroom, no subject is financially unfeasible to cover. Just about any specialist can find a course that will help them improve their skills and the value they are able to provide their employers.
3. Industry-Specific Applications
Many corporations have discovered that they can better meet their need for work-ready graduates if they help their employees get an education.
Starbucks is a perfect example. By partnering with Arizona State University, the coffee giant is now able to offer full tuition reimbursement to any of its benefits-eligible employees who can attend class online.
While every industry has its own unique needs, the agility of online education makes it easy to address these requirements.
4. Support for Vital Soft Skills
One of the most common criticisms of higher education is that it doesn’t teach students soft skills.
Unfortunately, soft skills are extremely important in the corporate world.
Students who attend online classes have to develop soft skills. By its very nature, this approach encourages self-direction and motivation.
5. The Emergence of VR
It’s important to point out that the world of online learning is vast – just as vast as that of classroom-based education.
As such, every online institution’s offering is different.
When adopting this new approach, you’ll want to ensure your courses stand out from the thousands of others on the market. You can do this by offering programs that are:
The opportunity to connect with other students is important, too. This applies to online schools as well as companies with multiple sites where “students” from the same classes may be spread out and unable to intermingle in person.
Online learning does entail a certain amount of isolation, but there’s no lack of platforms that will allow your students to interact, which is great for study groups, group projects, and networking, among other things.
Clearly, online learning is the direction education is headed – both in academic settings and in the world of business. In recent years, countless students, employees and educators have become aware of its many benefits.
However, that’s not to say that the traditional classroom is extinct – yet.
"My belief is the best combination is some online video-based training coupled with some in-person workshops and activities. It’s commonly referred to as ‘flip the classroom’.” - Mark Kilens, VP of HubSpot Academy
Nonetheless, online learning has already made an impact. Dozens of institutions – from Harvard to Starbucks – have shown the model is successful and, more importantly, growing in popularity by leaps and bounds.
So, while it may be some time before traditional classrooms finally fade away completely, it would be wise to start leveraging online resources before doing so becomes commonplace.