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Recent Trends in Online Education

Online education has radically changed the landscape of modern education. We’re learning in a new and more fluid environment, one ripe with opportunities for students of every kind. Below are seven current trends in online education. These emergent approaches to content and curriculum are part of a whole new wave of learning opportunities distinguished by web mediation. As these trends demonstrate, online education is producing a whole new set of strategies for improving engagement, retention, and mastery.

Project-Based Learning

Online colleges can be surprisingly adept at project-based learning (PBL). Many conventional classrooms have long operated on a project-based model, where instead of reading chapters, answering questions, and taking tests, students work on subject-specific educational projects such as building a greenhouse, designing a website, or debating the specifics of the French Revolution — possibly in era-accurate garb.

Online colleges, of course, must operate a little differently, since you can’t exactly build a literal greenhouse entirely online. You can, however, construct 3D models of buildings, design web pages, write short stories, and solve puzzles.

Projects are often group work but they don’t have to be. Well-designed PBL programs cover all the main learning outcomes expected for a given subject area while also training students to share and organize responsibilities, give peer review, work in teams, engage in self-directed learning, break down projects into discrete and manageable parts, and solve complex problems. It’s important that, as an online student, you remain plugged into the process. You will need to learn how to communicate, cooperate, and be a good team player. A great deal of your success in a PBL setting depends on your ability to work with other students through the online medium.

Mastery Learning

Many online colleges and schools make heavy use of mastery learning. The concept has been around for a while, but it gained popularity in online education thanks to Khan Academy. Mastery learning requires students to master a concept or skill before moving ahead. Instead of treating a 60 or 70 as a “passing grade,” students are expected to demonstrate mastery in that topic by answering all questions correctly. This system works especially well for the special considerations adult learning requires.

This standard sounds hard, but it makes good sense if you think about it. We wouldn’t settle for a cardiologist who is only ninety percent competent to perform heart surgery; or a dentist who cleans only seventy percent of your teeth. Likewise, mastery learning requires students to master the material with demonstrable one hundred percent competency. For Khan academy students, mastery is measured as ten correct answers in a row, with the questions drawn from a battery of subject-specific questions.

If your school utilizes mastery learning, then expect a lot of retesting. You’ll also want to make heavy use of online tutorials and any teacher assistance available to you. You can’t coast on a score of 70 and keep flowing through your degree program. You’ll need to fully grasp the material or else your college experience will be slow and painstaking.

Collaborative Learning

For many online students, isolation can be a serious challenge. They may drift collectively through their studies as strangers who never truly engage one another. Fortunately, schools and teachers are increasingly keen to this concern. A growing effort implements collaborative online learning strategies to confront this challenge.

Collaborative learning — sometimes known as “learning communities” or “cooperative learning” — refers to the commonsense notion that we often learn best by working with others as a group. Collaborative learning applies a deliberate goal-oriented focus to these exercises so students are not just working together on an activity, but are also actively learning from each other, through each other, and about each other, all while completing assignments together.

teamwork in learning

In online education, collaborative learning is powered by a wide range of social media technologies including videoconferencing, texting, email, teleconferencing, and workflow programs such as Trello and Slack. Each of these applications has helped to make the world a smaller place for students, making global collaboration a real possibility.

Collaborative learning is an increasingly popular option in today’s online classrooms. As an online student, don’t be surprised if you are called upon to collaborate with classmates on assignments. You would do well to learn how to use some collaborative platforms. In addition to Trello and Slack, commonly used applications include ClearSlide, GoogleDocs, and Skype. Chances are you’ll also eventually use one or all of these applications in your professional life as well.

Flipped Classroom

Ever labored on homework, late on a school night, only to get stuck on one problem? You can’t finish your homework because the next ten questions are just like that one. You wrestle and struggle, but the solution eludes you. Frustrated, you pack it in. The next morning you awake to a headache, bags under your eyes, and your homework largely unfinished. This phenomenon is common in traditional classrooms. The flipped classroom aims to resolve this problem.

The flipped classroom turns everything around, switching the time devoted to homework and class lectures. You’ll complete assignments in the classroom instead of at home. This means that when you get stuck on a problem, the teacher is right there to coach you along. Meanwhile, classwork and lesson plans can be done at home through video lectures and on-screen tutorials. Many math and science classrooms have adopted this model, made famous by the highly acclaimed Khan Academy.

Virtual Learning Environments

The New Year brings new innovations in online education. These edtech, reward, institutional, AI, and instructional developments for 2019 excite us most! Online education has changed learning, from our devices to the way we process info. Online education is convenient and accessible, there are tools for success.

This innovation replaces an office-building’s worth of administrators, teaching assistants, file cabinets, and paperwork. Virtual leaning environments (VLE) such as Blackboard, Canvas, and Renweb extend both the classroom and the administrator’s office. Blackboard at once handles teaching duties such as gradebooks, auto-scoring, and attendance sheets, and administrative duties, such as enrollment, updating class lists, auto-sending emails for absent students, notifying people of unpaid bills, and tracking payroll and accounting information.

Blackboard is also user-friendly. Along with good technical support from its publisher, if your school uses Blackboard, there’s probably a technology or IT department you can call whenever you need help. The bad news: if you have any fundamental dislike for Blackboard, tough luck. Most every school uses it these days. As a student, it’s important that you get familiar with your school’s virtual learning environment.

Typically, students have their own personalized account within the system. You should access your account often, at least during the early part of your school semester, so you can make sure you receive every email, every assignment posting, and can follow everything students and teachers are posting on discussion boards.