Three Higher Education Learning Trends for 2020

Students today want more personalized, connected methods for how, what, when, and where they learn. As a result, higher education intuitions are creating more student-centric experiences and extending their reach beyond the traditional classroom to create experiences that cultivate skills needed for the workforce.

While there are many changes in the learning landscape, there are three standout changes that may make significant headway in 2020: eLearning, experiential learning, and immersive learning.

eLearning is the New Normal

Online learning is one of the fastest-growing segments in higher education, incorporating a wide range of technologies to support learners at any time, from anywhere. Rapid online course enrollment rates indicate that students have accepted this model and see online and blended options, which combine traditional with online methods, as increasingly attractive.

It’s easy to see why eLearning is becoming widely adopted; it increases the availability of education and simplifies access to content and experts. It overcomes traditional constraints like time, location, and collaboration.

Students have their own learning styles and triggers. With online learning, institutions can personalize education solutions for individual learners and customize programs for educators. eLearning also improves education delivery and efficiency for better learning outcomes. It addresses challenges associated with access, the lack of trained teachers, and the lack of data and analytics to benchmark student performance.

The need for flexible and affordable education continues to grow. In a recent report by Global Market Insights, the eLearning market is expected to exceed $300B by 2025, up from $190B in 2018. This indicates a significant uptick in the online learning space.

Experiential Learning is on the Rise

Given the high cost of attaining a college education, students and parents expect college to prepare graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace. A survey from Gallup and Strada Education Network echoed this sentiment, revealing that roughly 88 percent of college freshmen say that “getting a good job” is one of the main reasons they enrolled in college.

At the same time, the survey found that a disconnect exists between how employers and higher education leaders view college graduates’ preparation for the workforce. While 96 percent of chief academic officers of colleges and universities believe their institutions are very or somewhat effective at preparing students for the workforce, only 11 percent of business leaders agree.

Because of this disconnect, institutions are increasingly integrating experiential learning, or learning through experience, into their programs. Experiential learning incorporates experiences outside academia, such as an internship, co-op program, volunteering, or a real-life workforce project, that enables students to gain professional skills by helping organizations solve real business challenges.  

Experiential learning has proven to be very successful by integrating the classroom with the real world. According to NACE’s 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, businesses have found it increasingly easier to convert interns and co-op students into full-time employees during the past several years.

Students and parents alike are looking for more than traditional academic programs; they are looking for institutions that guide students through career exploration and career decision-making while delivering the skills and knowledge to enable career success.

Immersive Learning is the Next Big Thing

Immersive learning is the process of learning with the use of a simulated or artificial environment. Immersive learning sits at the intersection of eLearning and experiential learning, incorporating characteristics of both strategies.

Immersive learning often uses virtual reality (VR) technology, producing images, sounds, and other sensations to create a different environment, engrossing users in the new location. For example, virtual reality can immerse students in historical places such as ancient Egypt or in a particular battle during the civil war. In marine biology and environmental classes, VR shows students the complexity and beauty of coral reefs, increasing empathy towards complex environmental issues.

Likewise, augmented reality (AR) refers to the combination of real and virtual worlds. Medical schools use this technology to teach surgeons how to operate by practicing surgeries in safe, artificially generated environments.

We are at the very early stages of a massive transformation in higher education learning. All three of these trends—eLearning, experiential learning, and immersive learning—as well as others may shift the way students get their education and prepare them for the real-world.
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