Why eLearning Will Grow in Higher Ed in 2018

By Cait Etherington November 26, 2017

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Oxford University

A report issued by Global Market Insights in September 2017 found that the eLearning market, already estimated to be worth 150 billion in 2016, will grow at a rate of over 5% annually between 2017 to 2024. Discover five reasons why eLearning will grow in higher ed in 2018 and continue to grow over the coming decade.

Student Demand for eLearning Continues to Grow

As reported in this year’s ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, for four years running, the number of students preferring a blended learning environment that includes “some to mostly online components” has increased while students preferring a face-to-face only learning environment has continued to decline. With student demand growing, in 2018, it seems likely that both colleges and universities will continue to scale up their online offerings.

Faculty Attitudes About eLearning Are Changing

elearningAlthough the majority of postsecondary faculty surveyed in the 2017 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology indicate that they have never taught an online course for credit, the survey suggests the tide is changing.  As reported, “Forty-two percent of professors say they have taught an online course, and 36 percent have taught a blended or hybrid course,” but “A year ago, 39 percent reported teaching an online course, and in 2013, 30 percent did.”  While faculty continue to express concerns about private vendors having too much say over campus affairs, including curricular matters, there are signs that in another few years, a majority of faculty will have experimented with online learning. Changing faculty attitudes are among the five reasons why eLearning will continue to grow over the coming year.

Higher Ed Relies on LMSs for Vital Data

What happens in a lecture or seminar is often difficult to track. Indeed, beyond end-of-course student evaluations, it can be difficult and even impossible for institutions to collect data on teaching and learning. Online courses offer new ways to collect data on teaching and learning and most importantly, it is now possible to collect data throughout the semester. From being able to see how many students log on to download required readings and to tracking student progress through online evaluations to tracking instructors’ engagement levels (e.g., the time they spend grading student assignments), learning management systems are quickly becoming the eyes of the institution. As a result, as higher ed faces increased demands for accountability to support their claims about meeting student outcomes increases, it seems inevitable that online and blended courses will continue to be embraced by administrators.

Global Markets Are Expanding

In many nations around the world, access to higher education remains limited, and there is high hope that eLearning can bridge the gap. As reported on eLearning Inside earlier in the year, compared to high-income nations where over 50% of citizens currently participate in higher education, in several sub-Saharan African nations, the rate is well below 5%. However, the demand for education in these nations is high and growing at a rapid pace. In 1993, Ethiopia only had two higher education institutions but by 2015, the nation had 33 public universities and 59 colleges. Similar growth patterns have occurred across the continent over the past two decades.  To help respond to the demand, many nations in the developing world are now looking to eLearning as a solution. eLearnAfrica, for example, currently brings eLearning to 10 million students.

Tech Companies Continue to Move into the Education Business

It’s no secret that tech companies are increasingly interested in education. From partnerships with higher ed institutions (e.g., Arizona State University’s Echo Dot experiment) to K-12 curricular initiatives such as Ten Marks, Amazon continues to move into the education market. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook also continues to move into the K-12 public education system, insisting that tech holds the potential to transform the nation’s schools.  Moving forward, the influence of big tech companies on education and especially higher education appears bound to gain ground, despite faculty resistance. This makes it another reason reasons why eLearning appears bound to continue growing in 2018 and in the future.

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