How privileged are we to live in a world where we have high-speed data connectivity, affordable computing and mobile devices and services from banking to shopping in the form of an app on our mobile phones! Learning is no different, today education or training is not limited to a classroom-based set-up. We are seeing a growth in the number of online course providers and the game-changing MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses that offer online courses for free. The entire learning ecosystem is shifting towards a digital set-up. This blog post looks at how online course providers are innovating and changing the way students and learners acquire knowledge.
Traditional learning requires the presence of both the teacher and the student to be face-to-face in a room and at a pre-defined time and a set number of lessons and exams need to be completed within a fixed period that leads to the learner completing a specific course and acquiring a certificate or a degree. What online learning does is that it removes the restrictions of the learner and the teacher being at the same place at the same time. A learner can access course content whenever he or she wants and get queries classified via email or a forum. The forum is an integral tool that helps learners from around the world to connect with each other and get their queries answered.
The past few years have seen the rise of learning on mobile phones with specialised apps that run entire courses in the form of micro learning nuggets. These nuggets can be easily accessed and learners actually learn on the go from instructional videos and demonstrations. Affordability is another important factor; one can learn to become an Android developer or a web developer for less than US$25.
Around the world, in educational institutions as well as corporate firms, training and development is undergoing a paradigm shift. From getting things done with a basic framework to customized and adaptive learning being built into the learning solutions, online learning is the way forward. In universities and schools, online learning can complement existing textbook based learning. Experts in chosen fields get a chance to interact with learners from around the world and recorded videos and live webinars are other factors that make online learning attractive.
As stated in the first paragraph, the phenomenon of MOOCs is another interesting factor that is changing online learning. MOOCs offer a big library of courses across different subjects. These are provided by leading universities and private course providers and offered for free. Usually these MOOCs are designed to introduce learners to specific topics and give them a ‘taste’ of what the subject broadly covers. Once the learner feels confident and is interested then they are usually directed to enrol for a full-length paid course. We also have not-for-profit bodies like the Khan Academy putting up helpful videos for school and university students across subject categories and age-groups and this is used by students from all over the world.
Another crucial factor is the importance of staying relevant and up-skilled. The past few months have been tough for IT firms around the world, not just India. With lay-offs and pink-slips being handed out with alarming speed; it is important for working professionals to acquire domain expertise in multiple subjects and be ready to face any challenge that recession and government policies create.
In sum total, online learning will continue to grow and we will shortly see the growth of an ‘app-only’ learning model, which will move the entire process of acquiring knowledge to the mobile phone and people will be able to buy and download courses directly on their phones. This is the future and get ready for ‘learning on the go’. As always, the human teacher will remain an integral part of learning and learning will never ever be completely replaced by an artificial programme or robot.