Not that many years ago getting any kind of qualification meant going to some kind of educational institution in person. It meant attending classes, interacting with teachers and other students and it often meant substancial cost. These days however there is a huge range of learning options that are partly or solely online. This online learning revolution has opened up education and given access to courses and qualification for millions of people who would otherwise not have been able to learn. However it is not just for those who could not otherwise have taken a course, many people are simply choosing to learn online because of it’s other benefits.
Learning and Qualifications
Online learning is not just about getting qualifications. There are a vast array of sites out there that offer courses and lessons that are not geared specifically around traditional qualifications. One example of this kind of learning is online English courses. As a language English is one of the most popular to learn and sites like www.perfectlyspoken.com offer complete English courses for people to take online. They do not offer standard qualifications like a degree but do work with language standards like Cambridge. This kind of platform is proving very popular across a range of different subjects but seems to work especially well with languages. Perhaps on the periphery of learning it is important to consider YouTube as a learning platform. The myriad of tutorials for subjects as wide ranging as bike maintenance to digital marketing make it a true educational resource. The downside is that nothing on You Tube is regulated in the same way organised courses are, but the popularity of the content shows the level of demand and is one of the reasons behind the rise of the more organised and structured online course.
There is no doubt the online learning sector is growing. Data from https://www.weforum.org shows elearning to be worth over $250 billion dollars in 2017 and it is only set to grow. There are two main factors the are pushing this growth. The first is time and convenience. We, more than ever, are happy to do almost everything online, we are able to interact, shop, plan events, book holidays, publish content, work and more online and we like doing it at times that suit us. This familiarity and comfort with online living was always going to lead into adding learning to the list of other things we do in that space. This then naturally compliments a growing lack of spare time. It is not always because we are working, often it’s because we are doing other things we enjoy but the amount of time people are willing to set aside for learning seems to be dropping and it is probably because we know we can learn online. People are not as willing to drive 30 minutes to an evening class, wait around for it to start and deal with the social interaction when it ends. They want to log on, learn and walk away. Online learning is fast, flexible and accessible.
The second reason online learning is on the rise is cost. In the most part online courses are far cheaper than paying for a “contact” course that involves real teachers, classrooms and more. But it is not just the consumer that pays less; course operators can use video content that only needs to be produced once. This content can then be used by millions of users who all pay a fee to do so. As a business model it is a very efficient one. Of course in some cases a live interactive lesson is needed but doing this via something like skype still carries far less cost to the business than running a classroom and as a result it costs less for the user too.
The Downsides to Online Learning
Whilst this new wave of learning is generally positive for everyone there are some who feel it isn’t perfect. One of the main issues people bring up is the lack of teacher/pupil interaction. For many learners the ability to ask a direct question may be useful. To combat this some online platforms like http://www.open.ac.uk/ have forums and chat groups where students and pupils can discuss issues around lessons. Facebook live broadcasts and other similar options also work well to combat this. The other issue that is often raised is a lack of student to student interaction. It is true that the value of discussing a subject with peers can be as useful as discussing a question with a teacher. But again, with the rise of social media and platforms like whatsapp a well organised learning platform can easily put students in touch online where discussion is very easy.
Regardless of any negative issues the world of online learning is only going to expand and the total worth of the sector is likely to increase enormously over the coming years. With it will come more skilled people from a wider range of backgrounds and all the benefits that will bring to the global economy.