The Future of Education with Online Learning

Predicting the future is at best difficult and at worst impossible. Most of us attempt to gather details about the present and extrapolate them to make predictions on what the future might hold. Using the details of education today does not necessarily produce a clear picture of what education is going to look like tomorrow; one thing we can say with relative certainty though, is that technology is driving the changes in education. Of great importance to me now is online education and how it is going to integrate in with the “brick and mortar” buildings that we have been using for so long.

Technology has made some incredible marks on an education system not prone to much change in a very short amount of time. To give you an idea, look at my college experience. When I did my undergrad (2000-2004) I took all of my classes on campus except for one. That one class that I took off campus was a “distance learning” class that I took at another university. Assignments were submitted through the mail (that’s right, the mail…not email). When I had exams for this geology class I had to make an appointment at the public library and submit an approval form for them to proctor me. Fast-forward with me to my master’s degree (2006-2008). For this program, only about 50% of my classes were the classic sit down variety, with the others being online. My latest degree, my educational specialist (2009-2011) was completed 100% online from a university in a different state from where I lived. In the span of 11 years in my life, education had been completely turned upside down by technology.

At this point you are probably thinking that was college, how does it apply to elementary and high school. The answer is that there is a trickle down effect that we are now beginning to experience. The article linked below provides some ideas about the future of online learning from some pretty influential minds in the business. My favorite quote from the article is provided below. It seems to predict a major framework change to education.

Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Learning

Larry Summers, former President of Harvard
“It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: ‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will and then they happen faster than you think they could.’ If you had a discussion with dentists on tooth decay in 1947 it would have been about brushing your teeth and dental care, but the most important thing to happen with fighting tooth decay was fluoridated water and this is similar. It’s hard to know when it will happen but at some point this will be transformative. The first stage is when it does what was being done before but better. That’s what is happening now. But we’re going to where we don’t need to have two semesters, classes of same length, grading on the basis of things called exams. You can’t think of another industry where a list of top 10 providers is perfectly correlated to what it was in 1960.”

    1. What did you take away from the article?
    2. What role do you think online learning will have in the future?
    3. How much different is education going to look in 30 years?

Though the future of education is not clearly defined, it is fairly clear that technology and online classes will be major players in its evolution. I like to think about the future of education as a bright, but slightly unfocused at this point.



Filed under education, Uncategorized

8 responses to “The Future of Education with Online Learning

  1. Sandy

    One major point of this article is that we have no way of predicting what the future will look like. I think that, given the direction of technology, online learning wil take over completely at some point. Some giant think tanks will disseminate the knowledge and a lot of teachers will not have jobs. I think that a lot of people will fail because without someone to encourage and mentor them, they will not succeed.

    • some interesting thoughts Sandy. The MIT president noted that it will be collaboration and teamwork that mark the importance of the school building in the future, paraphrasing. I don’t see schools going away, but they will change considerably as will the role if the teacher.

  2. Laura McDonell

    This is a topic very near to my heart as my own children are 2, 4 and 6. I want to make sure that they are getting the best when they go through school. It is difficult to predict where we should be and what to focus on. All we can do is what we know, and that on-line education is growing. Some of the research I looked at suggested that on-learning when combined with traditional education can have tremendous potential. We have to expose our students to a combination of the two.

    • Laura,

      What you are describing, combining online learning with traditional education, is the basis for blended learning. This is a concept that we are exploring in great depth on our innovation team at the district level. We are exploring different platforms for presentation and different models and will be conducting a blended prototype pilot starting with fourth quarter. Education is certainly moving more toward that type of learning. When I look at my own learning as an example I am astounded by the amount of change that has already taken place. One of the great benefits of online education is the idea of anytime/anyplace. I can safely say that if my graduate program were not available online, I would not be here today. To support my family in Georgia, I was coaching for the school and also for a travel soccer league. Between these teams and my teaching, there was no time to fit in a classic brick and mortar class. Most of my work for my classes was completed during planning periods, weekends, and after 10 pm (when my children were in bed).

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. Danan

    One of my favorite quotes is “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
    As teachers, we consistently look for different approaches to meet the needs of our students through differentiated instruction. Whether it be lecture, group discussion, peer groups, cooperative learning groups – think,pair,share or zig sag, etc we research what works for us, and we implement it. I’m not sure why all of a sudden implementing technology is seen as something more than that. Isn’t technology just another form of differentiating for our students? Zig zag groups, and group discussion currently are not available to students when they’re home sick, but with technology our instruction can be! The interesting thing about this as well is that we (teachers) don’t even have to PAY for it! USE the FREE resource 🙂

    • One if the roadblocks that I see with technology in education is that it is the first tool that I know of where the students likely have a better understanding of its use than the teachers. It is difficult to relinquish control of the classroom. Successful technology implementation will be a delicate balancing act of classroom management and risk taking.

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