It’s no secret that change is a fact of life, so it should come as no surprise that even something as traditional as education is always evolving.
As students and educators learn more, have access to new resources and technologies, and become increasingly aware of the global world, they also shift their expectations of what education can and should provide, and this leads to the new trends.
As educators, it’s important to understand how these factors are changing the way institutions approach higher learning, and that includes finding novel ways to engage prospects, support current students, and retain top academic talent.
1. An Emphasis on Real-World and Continuing Education
Colleges and universities have a long-standing reputation for being institutions of academic learning, but as demand increases for more hands-on educational options, they are offering courses, degrees, and certificate programs that provide students with practical and real-world experience.
Part of this demand is arising because of the increasing competitiveness of the workforce, and adult students are looking to hone skills that can be used in the workplace or learn new ones that can be applied to different career paths.
In turn, this demand for real-world education is translating to colleges offering flexible learning options that accommodate working students, diploma courses that focus on specialized training, and non-traditional certification that demonstrates that students are qualified to function in a variety of workplaces.
For example, think of the way organizations offer alternative credentials that show students have the skills necessary to accomplish specific goals, such as creating and managing a successful Facebook marketing campaign, for instance. Many colleges are similarly offering these types of alternative certifications.
Furthermore, this demand has also led to the adoption of specialized technology offerings, including things like virtual reality being implemented in the classroom because this allows students to immerse themselves in lifelike lab simulations, which is especially important in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics or STEM fields.
2. Technology and the Internet Are Vital
A key way that technology is making waves in education is through mobile learning, and nearly 50% of educational organizations have adopted the use of mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) to improve the in-class experience and increase collaboration among students and educators outside the classroom.
Not only that, but these techniques can also be used to provide students with audio and video feeds or recordings of lectures, which makes things like distance learning more accessible and achievable, and allows remote students to attend and participate in classes in real-time.
3. Students Expect Learning to Be Fun and Engaging
Similarly, everyday technology is also changing student expectations in the classroom, and this means more educators are turning to things like video and gamification (turning coursework into a game that can include elements like play, points, and levels) to engage students and make the learning process more exciting.
After all, what student would want to sit in a lecture hall for three hours and listen to a professor talk when another institution is offering things like interactive learning experiences, audio-visual aids, and fun-based instructional strategies to teach the same material?
One major way that video technology is changing schools for the better is through flipped classrooms, wherein students are responsible for consuming course material on their own time and can then use class time with the instructor to focus on assignments, coursework, and guided discussions.
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4. Distance Studies and Online Courses
The integration of technology in the classroom has also made it easier than ever for students to get an education through distance learning and online courses, and the number of students pursuing these options continues to grow as technology improves and colleges offer more professional degrees through this medium.
In fact, nearly 30% of all students in higher education settings are participating in at least one distance course these days, and that number is expected to keep growing.
There are many reasons why online and distance learning is becoming more popular, including that it’s usually more flexible than the in-class paradigm, students can take courses at schools abroad that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and these courses are often more affordable than traditional degree programs.
Students who work or are involved in many activities are also choosing distance education as a viable option. As interest in these programs grows, educational institutions are having to invest more resources into them in order to remain competitive. A few ways they're doing that is through:
- Finding first-rate teachers who can perform well in a non-traditional teaching environment
- Investing in technologies that improve the student experience
- Having a wider range of courses available through distance and online studies
5. Personalization to Cater for Individuals, not Groups
Academia used to be based on a relatively strict curriculum that left little room for flexibility, but technology, the changing needs of students, and the growing experience of instructors is causing a shift in this once-rigid strategy. Today, students have more freedom than ever to explore new ways of learning that are geared to their own unique abilities, and that is creating a more significant demand for personalized learning opportunities.
Classroom flipping is one way that educational institutions are responding to this demand, but other methods include adaptive learning styles and software, which allow and encourage instructors to incorporate new tools into their teaching strategies (including technology like video), create customized course materials, generate individualized lesson plans, and develop new tutoring styles.
Another way educators are responding is with increased feedback, and instead of waiting until the end of a term or year to provide students with vital advice, instructors are now integrating processes that allow for the frequent assessment of student progress, which is helping students to develop skills and knowledge faster and with more ease than with the old system.
6. Looking Abroad to Learn
Even as more students turn to the internet and technology to gain an education through online and distance studies, a growing number are also exploring study abroad options instead of staying in their hometown, state, or even country.
In 2017, more than twice as many students were choosing to study abroad compared to 2000 (5 million compared to 2.1 million).
That number is expected that this number will grow in the coming years, especially as more countries offer more courses in English to attract international students.
7. Students Are Exploring New Countries for Higher Learning
However, while the number of students pursuing study abroad options continues to grow, the students aren't necessarily flocking to the traditional countries associated with this type of educational pursuit.
While both the U.S. and U.K. are seeing increases in their foreign student populations, more students are exploring program and course offerings in countries such as:
There are several reasons why students are exploring new countries for studying abroad, including increased visa restrictions and immigration bans in the traditional destinations, improved educational offerings in new countries, and relaxed work visa restrictions outside the U.S. and UK.
8. Employment Opportunities Are Becoming Increasingly Important
Tuition isn't cheap, and it seems to be getting more expensive by the minute. That being said, higher education is critical for success in today’s world, which is why there are still so many students out there pursuing options for advanced learning.
Unfortunately, not all degrees, educational institutions, and countries are created equal when it comes to post-graduate job opportunities, and an increasing number of students are making academic choices based on long-term career prospects.
For example, the wealth of job opportunities is one of the main reasons so many students today choose Canada for studying abroad. However, they're also looking at institutions that offer stellar career services, job placements, and other programs that add long-term value to the education.
Education has to contend with paradigm shifts just like every other industry, and staying apprised of trends is one way that institutions can remain relevant in today's increasingly competitive world.
Whether it's embracing new technologies, making learning more engaging, offering more flexible learning options or striving to be more appealing to international students, there are plenty of ways educators today can attract and retain academic talent.
The key, however, is staying on top of these trends and the changing expectations of students, especially as more and more students seek out institutions that offer the technology, courses, and flexibility that the modern world demands.