Online learning – revolutionising education or just a trend?

| 8 December 2015

By Gabi Goldberg

In the age of the Internet, the rapid disruption and advancement of industries and sectors has fundamentally changed the fabric of society. And now with countless new ways to discover, share and learn, online learning platforms and apps are beginning to make an impact – forever transforming the way we acquire and absorb information.

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A fundamental shift
When the first spate of open online platforms and courses came to the fore a few years ago, the impact was immediate and vast, with millions signing up for the new and fascinating way to learn. The premise behind many of the platforms, including the well known Coursera and edX, are simple – provide a blend of free and paid-for courses and offerings that encourage and improve learning and help provide endless options for growth.

The results have proven the success of the endeavours, as the US Department of Education recently found. Online learning, or a blend of online and traditional methods, help produce stronger students and improve overall results. For these reasons, the case for online and blended learning has started to make its way into classrooms across the world.

Learn more, learn better
The ever-popular platform, Coursera, offers hundreds of courses from top universities across the world, from China to Switzerland, using a mix of short videos, peer evaluations and certifications to ensure all who want to learn, can.

EdX, founded by Harvard University and MIT, is possibly the most intriguing, with free education for all being the cornerstone of the company. The company is non-profit and counts over 85 partners, providing a vast range of courses, from languages and engineering to computer science and psychology. The open source nature of the platform blurs the lines of traditional methods and learning, allowing for solutions and innovations to come from educators.

While online learning is attractive to many, the allure of an app that allows for gamification of language learning is even more so and Duolingo is proof of that – with over 70 million people having logged into the app to date. Around 15 million users are active every month learning a range of languages from Swedish and German to Spanish and French.

The common thread amongst the platforms is access to opportunities and the chance to discover and explore the many possibilities out there. Allowing access to free courses and certification of results means a chance for change, one course at a time.

A change is coming
The fundamental shift in how education is provided and how online learning is dispersed throughout the world means the platforms hold immense value and help provide a new and exciting way to connect, while providing opportunities where previously there were very few.

It is, however, not without its challenges and barriers to entry, including issues of digital literacy as well as laptop and data costs. Unprecedented access to online learning platforms means there’s a long way to go before a true and complex shift is seen. In the meanwhile, for those who can, access to a full array of online educational platforms is quite literally at your fingertips. What are you waiting for?

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