A man sitting by a laptop online learning

Online Learning Trends Certain To Continue

Take virtual learning to the next level

The demand and need for online learning opportunities continues to skyrocket. The eLearning industry is now projected to grow to $370 billion by 2026.

Professionals and educators have shifted their mindsets from considering online learning as a must-do just for now. Instead, they’re now seeking out ways to improve virtual education. With more students now opting for remote, flexible learning over in-person options, educators are now tasked with the question, “How can I make online learning more engaging and effective to stay competitive and retain students?”

Educators must come together to meet students’ new expectations for dynamic learning delivery that accounts for learners’ diverse lifestyles and schedules. As educators and eLearning providers continue revising their online learning delivery efforts, here are trends Automatic Sync Technologies (AST) is seeing to take note of.

Trend #1: Embracing Flexible Learning

Many students enjoyed being able to control how, when and where they learn. Flexible learning via hybrid and online models are allowing students with additional home and work responsibilities to pursue an education with greater ease. Non-traditional learners are enrolling in more online programs than ever before. Enrollments from parents, non-native speakers and students with full-time jobs now make up 40% of undergraduate learners.

Universities and colleges across the US are reaping the benefits of offering hybrid models. They are offering students the flexibility to watch or participate in online lectures at their own pace, while encouraging in-person activities more for labs, workshops and Q&A sessions with instructors. Educators plan to continue with flexible learning models in 2022, with 44% and 41% of institutions reporting they plan to invest in remote and hybrid learning methods, respectively. With college enrollments dipping by 3.5%, incorporating flexible tactics will allow educators to remain competitive and retain their students.

 Image of a woman using her laptop while sitting on a table outside.

Tips for Effective Flexible Learning:

  • Incorporate Learning Pathways: Offer courses that allow learners to adapt and change as they study, with learning pathways that are customized for students’ different learning needs and career paths. The Connecticut Department of Education provides effective guidance on offering these pathways.
  • Provide Asynchronous Learning: It can be difficult for online learners with busy schedules or family obligations to join live sessions. Use asynchronous learning options like recorded sessions to allow students to log in and learn at a time that works for them.
  • Offer Gamified Learning: Gamified learning offers students real-time feedback and practical ways to apply what they’re learning. Elements like point systems or jeopardy games offer students a creative way to interact with their peers and better retain coursework.

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Trend #2: Accessibility as a Top Priority

The transition to online learning has challenged learners, with many students needing accommodations they wouldn’t require in person. Today, more than half of students aren’t reporting their disability needs and are often struggling in silence.

In light of this reality, 75% of educators have made greater investments in accessibility and inclusion efforts since the pandemic began. Institutions and platforms are prioritizing accessibility efforts into 2022 to ensure students are better supported. Additionally, there’s a rising number of accessibility lawsuits facing institutions which aren’t meeting ADA benchmarks. 

Tips for Providing Greater Access:

  • Offer Captioning: Make sure that live streams of courses and recorded videos shown to students have captions to ensure that individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing are able to participate with equity. Captions not only provide accessibility but help improve comprehension and retention levels for all learners. Ensuring captions are 99% accurate to meet ADA guidelines is also key, as automatic built-in captions often don’t offer equity. 
  • Present in Multiple Formats: Present content in multiple ways to engage learners of all abilities. Ideally, all visual content should have a text alternative. For instance, videos should offer audio descriptions so screen reader users and students who are blind or low-vision can participate.
  • Deliver Transcripts: Students with learning disabilities often rely on note takers. Offering word-for-word transcripts of online lectures is a great start. These can be produced live and within live stream platforms like Zoom for students to take notes or highlight items to come back to within them. They can also be shared with students after class and are searchable, making them helpful study materials.
  • Ensure Consistency: Many learners are likely to face a learning curve when accessing their learning platforms for the first time. Make online content consistent across all pages to provide students with an organized user experience and allow them to access their materials quickly and easily.
  • Find A Valuable Partner: To guarantee you’re offering access in your courses, graduation ceremonies and events, enlist an accessibility expert as a partner. Providers like AST can help you scale time-consuming accessibility efforts with accurate captioning tools, transcription and audio description that adhere to ADA guidelines.

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Trend #3: Greater Investment in Diversity Initiatives

Educators are putting a greater focus on ways to effectively retain and engage diverse students. The number of international students alone dropped by 15% in 2021. Now, institutions are designing education delivery plans to better support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies. For example, schools like the University of Arizona have already developed strategic plans to implement and support DEI in 2022. On the admissions side, universities like Cornell have instituted diversity outreach departments that support the recruitment of diverse and multicultural students.

Closing the diversity gap in education isn’t just the right thing to do from a PR standpoint. The great benefits of forging a diverse student body are now proven. When students are surrounded by diverse peers, they’re more innovative, more likely to rise to the occasion in their careers and see greater financial success.

Tips for Cultivating Inclusion:

  • Incorporate Diverse Perspectives: Students are more motivated to learn when instructors offer assignments that relate to their personal experiences, such as assigning a book that includes different ethnic or minority perspectives. Encouraging instructors to build the course work around including unique perspectives is a sure way to help students feel represented, connect to the material and learn from others’ viewpoints.
  • Write a Diversity Statement: Include a clear diversity, equity and inclusion statement on your website and course syllabuses. Craft an impactful statement and place it prominently to showcase your or your institutions’ commitment to diversity. Outline the steps you will take to encourage students to start communities to bond and learn from each other and make sure every student regardless of background knows they have an important voice that their peers can learn from.
  • Offer Dedicated Resources: Provide information about diversity resources and services to online students. University campuses like the University of California, Davis have instituted DEI departments that regularly provide remote diversity workshops and support groups that are customized for students who come from diverse backgrounds.

 Image of student looking at their laptop and smiling.

Design Courses With Your Learners in Mind

Ultimately, to provide effective online education you must set aside time.
– Time to understand that your student body is diverse
– Time to consider each eLearner’s unique needs
– Time to craft a plan to offer flexible opportunities and technology to meet them

As students’ learning needs and expectations continue to evolve, educators who focus on designing courses that deliver engaging and inclusive experiences which aren’t one-size-fits-all will drive students’ success.

AST’s captioning, transcription, audio description and translation services are proven to enhance the online learning experience and deliver on accessibility needs. Reach out to learn more about our key integrations and offerings.

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