How is online learning changing higher education?

How is online learning changing higher education? The whole world of higher education is going digital. It’s a fundamental shift in classrooms and lecture halls, but also in research, marketing, and recruitment. Today’s students expect to learn and be taught using the devices that dominate the rest their lives – laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Universities are thinking beyond just filming lectures from the back of the room and archiving them online. Teachers are considering how to create high-quality online courses and keep students engaged through online text, video, and interaction. The digital shift also affects how students prepare for class. Now, they can access resources online instead of getting a reading list for the library. Professors can ask students to do online courses alongside face-to-face classes. Students will absorb information online first then attend classes to discuss what they’ve learned. Everything has to work on a smartphone so course design must be mobile-responsive. In the past, online learning was a lonely experience. But now, interaction is the dominant way people behave on the web. So courses are designed to be a sociable experience. Students might watch a video, then be invited to join a discussion and asked questions about it. The educator takes part in the discussion and responds to questions, just like in a traditional classroom. Increasingly, you will see top universities offering whole degrees online. Some are already doing this for graduate degrees. You’ll also see courses being broken into sections, so that students can pick the parts they need. Does this mean that online classes will overtake the traditional degree? Not yet. For many 18-year-olds, the experience of heading off to university is about more than just an academic degree. And some subjects, like healthcare and engineering require hands-on learning. But when today’s students arrive at university they expect digital technology to be part of the experience. For more information on digital higher education, read Simon Nelson’s article on British Council Voices and watch the other videos in this series.

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