Almost a fifth of the 200 rectors from the top 1000 universities believe physical lectures will be eradicated and replaced by online learning facilitated by digital technology in the next ten years. Granted, some skills cannot be taught virtually. However, there are multiple reasons why more institutions offer and more students take up online education.
The Shift Towards Lifelong Learning
Childhood development and education remain a critical determinant of prosperity and success. However, lifelong learning has become paramount in the constant flux that is the globalized marketplace. International organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union, have recognized the importance of lifelong learning and adult education. It creates opportunities for advancement, particularly for vulnerable or low-income households. There are at least 130 lifelong learning institutes in the US because modern economies evolve in a way that requires productive individuals to adapt to new technologies, roles, and environments. However, not all individuals active in the labor market have access to quality education on college and university campuses. Those that do will have access to a wider array of opportunities. Those same opportunities may become accessible to all who want to pursue them without access to direct physical on-site instruction through online education. As such, online education is a vital platform for those looking to exploit opportunities that arise but require further education when there is limited access to traditional learning institutions.
Reskilling for Experienced Professionals
Experienced professionals in comfortable and well-paid roles may not perceive a need to pursue continuous learning because they are skilled in a rewarding role within a prominent and sustainable industry. However, the world is changing faster than most may anticipate. Not only is automation making a lot of roles redundant, the development of artificial intelligence and other technologies means that several roles, including computer operators, executive administrative assistants, data entry professionals, and even telemarketers, will become obsolete. The reskilling and upskilling of at-risk or displaced workers is essential for societal and economic stability. To prepare for these changes, individuals in at-risk professions must acquire additional skills to be employable before a loss in income. However, it may not be feasible for a full-time employee to balance work life with on-site education. In such circumstances, online education is a viable alternative that would reduce the time commitment required by traditional institutions in order to gain a quality education. One would not need to reduce work hours to accommodate classes significantly. Further, no time is wasted on commuting, and relocation to be closer to campus would be unnecessary.
Convenience and Affordability
A major disadvantage of traditional class or lecture attendance is the need for fixed or, at least, predictable schedules. Prior to the video recording of classes and lectures, failure of attendance would have resulted in a substantial loss for the students. Even with the development of recorded lectures, there may be some loss through the inability to interact with the lecturers and professors administering the course. Online learning creates a platform for students to not only receive instruction at their convenience but for students to interact with their instructors at their convenience. Further, the elimination of venue and transportation costs for both the student and instructor means courses cost less for all stakeholders, including the educational institution. Online education also eliminates scheduling issues. Individuals taking part in adult education and reskilling programs no longer need to agree on a fixed and predictable timetable. They would need not reduce their work hours to accommodate for classes or lectures. There is no need to address any clashes in classes or lectures, which often create the unenviable endeavor of being in two places at once for students in traditional learning settings.
Trade has gone global. One doesn’t need to walk into a retail shop to buy its products. You need not make an appointment to meet an accountant for a consultation. Business can be done between parties on the opposite ends of the globe. Regarding lifelong learning, you would need to relocate or adjust your schedule to benefit from leading professionals and researchers in their field. Regardless of the required skills, online learning has benefits comparable to and often better than those offered in traditional classes.