What Could Be Possible In the Virtual World of Adult Learning in the Future?
The virtual world of adult learning is developing at an astounding pace, with new technology and approaches evolving rapidly over time. Ezra discusses what we can expect from the future of this growing industry and how it might affect tomorrow's workplace.
The U.S. population is becoming more educated as the years go by. In fact, the number of adults aged 25 years and older that have a bachelor’s degree has increased by roughly 5% between 2005 and 2019. Between 2005 and 2009, 27.5% of people in this age group held a bachelor’s degree. Between 2015 and 2019, this percentage reached 32.1%. This appears to be a trend across all ethnic groups as well, making it a nationwide growth that goes to show our population is getting smarter every year.
But education isn’t something that stops once you’ve earned your degree. These days, more and more people are looking for ways to improve their skills even once they’ve entered the workforce. In the past, this used to mean returning to academic life and earning another degree or studying through some kind of course. These days, we can take advantage of virtual learning instead.
As technology evolves and we start learning more about how to optimize virtual learning, we can expect to see developing trends that point towards a common goal; to educate the population and to give people more accessible ways to develop the skills they need to advance in their careers.
The difficulties of virtual learning that need to be addressed
Virtual learning is something that has grown tremendously over the past couple of years. Statistics show that the worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 billion in 2025. With improved retention rates and around 98% of U.S. corporations planning to add it to their programs across the next few years, it’s easy to see just how important virtual learning has become. But with that said, virtual learning isn’t flawless and we are still in a state where the technology is young and often underutilized.
So what are some of the biggest virtual learning difficulties that we’re currently facing?
- Social isolation
- Limited feedback
- Requires time management skills
- Demands self-motivation
- Ease of cheating during assessments
- Lack of face-to-face communication
- Impractical or unrealistic examples
- Inaccessible to computer illiterate population
- Minimal quality assurance
- Few accreditations
Clearly, there are still lots of problems to work out before we can call virtual learning a complete replacement or even upgrade from regular learning techniques. The technology is still developing at an astounding rate which initially might seem like a great thing. In reality, this is perhaps the biggest complication with virtual learning technologies; we just don’t know how to optimize it because of all the different options. It’s going to take a lot of trial and error to figure out the best way to approach virtual learning techniques. Fortunately, there are some trends that seem to be forming.
The virtual learning trends that will define its future
We’ve reached a stage in virtual learning where trends are clearly starting to develop. Here are some of the biggest ones to look out for.
An increase in peer-to-peer learning
One of the major issues with current virtual learning solutions is that many of the example scenarios are impractical or unrealistic. This can generally be solved by introducing more peer-to-peer learning opportunities where the instructor is someone that actively works in the industry instead of someone whose only job is to educate.
This makes the course much more authentic and gives the learner more opportunities to speak with someone that is still active in their chosen role.
Improved feedback systems
Systems to provide real-time feedback are starting to become much more common in virtual learning environments. Studies have shown that learners that received more individualized and content-specific feedback scored higher on a standardized exam than those that did not. This shows that feedback systems are incredibly important for virtual learning.
Encouraging interactions between learners and instructors bring virtual learning closer to a typical academic course, improving communications and dealing with some of the most problematic issues in virtual learning today.
More support for learners
Giving learners access to more support services is the key to improving retention rates and successful course completions. Simply handing someone their learning resources and letting them take things at their own pace seemed like a great idea at first.
However, even adult learners need guidance and a bit of motivation to get them going. Adult learners still need support by engaging with instructors and other specialists that can help them with their aspirations, limitations, and to overcome the challenges that they’re currently facing.
Cloud and app-based mobile learning
Statista shows that by 2026, there will be roughly 7.5 billion smartphone subscriptions. An overwhelming majority of people will be accessing the internet from their smartphones and it’s going to be the main way they interface with the rest of the world. As such, developing technologies to make it easier for adult learners to access the content they need is becoming a priority.
This is why there’s a push for cloud and app-based mobile learning instead of the traditional wide-format content we view on desktop or laptop devices. Switching to a smaller screen with a different orientation has been difficult for some online learning services, but others have been designed with mobile use in mind and desktop and laptop use as a secondary option.
As trends solidify into proven concepts, we expect another massive popularity spike for online learning. As it starts to take advantage of more technologies and grows on a much larger scale, we expect that a vast majority of adult learning will be solely focused on virtual offerings, moving away from in-person courses in an academic setting. While there will still be demand for adults to study through the old academic system, it will be far more likely that they’ll just switch on their smartphone and access an online learning platform or other virtual solution rather than deciding to sit in a physical classroom.
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