Before the SARS-CoV-2 virus first appeared in China, the world was still leading its everyday life; At that time, the education sector was more focused on face-to-face classes than on digital learning (eLearning). However, this highly contagious virus forced governments to close educational institutions, which affected more than one billion students in more than 130 countries. Then, the world turned to digitalized learning, which, it seems, is here to stay.
This article explores how the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed eLearning and how you can take advantage of it.
Digital learning statistics during the COVID-19 pandemic
Since 2000, revenues from the e-learning industry have grown by more than 900%. Although interest in online education had increased rapidly before the virus's arrival, the pandemic boosted its worldwide adoption robustly.
While virtual learning increased 16% during the pandemic, instructor-led training declined significantly. As a result, more than 64% of American high school students now find themselves using online learning tools daily.
“The increased demand for online education also causes an even greater demand for high-quality courses and well-established processes for content instruction, and the creation of virtual classrooms.”
Notably, 52% of U.S. graduate students consider online college education superior to in-class learning, while 39% of university undergraduate students feel that online classes are better than face-to-face classes.
According to a report in Statista, 49% of the student population worldwide affirmed having enrolled in an online course in the last 12 months. In addition, 95% of students indicated being satisfied with online education and that web-based learning is more fun and helps them retain information faster. Forbes reports that online learning increases student retention rates between 25% to 60%.
However, the adoption of digital learning does not depend on individuals, teachers, or independent administrators. Of the top 25 U.S. universities, 22 of them currently offer online courses for free, and Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest-growing MOOC market between 2020 and 2025. However, that is not all; according to Arizona State University, online courses help educational institutions save $54 per credit hour, about 50% of the average cost of a credit hour.
eLearning is an industry of the present and future. However, the increased demand for online education causes an even greater demand for high-quality courses, well-established content-instruction processes, and virtual classrooms. However, without the right tools, everything seems impossible.
E-learning technologies to consider in 2021
Let's review digital learning technologies and the instructional design tools that teachers and administrators should consider this year and in the future.
Virtual classes and web conferencing
A virtual classroom is a training tool that helps teachers create an environment in which participants communicate, view, and discuss instructional presentations and videos and access other learning resources, all online. It is very similar to a traditional classroom, where there is at least one instructor, and the class is conducted in real-time. The difference is that users connect through the internet and can participate from anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, the web conferencing tools are very similar. Of course, they lack some interactive features. Still, they allow educators and students to stay connected and collaborate in a real-time online environment, allowing hundreds of students to connect at once, which is impossible with virtual classroom software. However, this option may be more suitable for business training.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
How can teachers share course materials with their students? Emails or chats probably are not the best option to do this. Instead, a learning management system (LMS) will solve this problem. In short, a Learning Management System is an online platform for storing and distributing learning materials over the internet. In an LMS, students have personal accounts for viewing assigned courses and keeping the calendar of learning activities. In addition, they can take online courses and their assessments, attend virtual learning sessions (many platforms offer opportunities for blended learning), and track their results.
A suitable LMS can save teachers and administrators the hours they spend trying to organize each day's teaching process. It automates the most tedious work, such as assessing student learning, grading, processing statistics, and preparing reports.
Course creation tools
Word documents and PDF files are outdated modalities that do not inform if a student has studied them or not. With modern authoring tools, teachers can create online courses that engage students and, along with an LMS, allow them to see their progress.
Most authoring tools utilize a slide-based course structure. A course developer creates as many slides as needed and fills them with text, images, and animations. Depending on the tool, users can create other types of learning materials, for example, online questionnaires, video tutorials, drag-and-drop activities, and dialog simulations. The key idea behind these authoring tools is to make it easier for users like teachers to create professional eLearning content.
As COVID-19 forced teachers, students, and administrators to switch to digital learning as an alternative to face-to-face classes, various online learning tools have become ideal solutions. From these different tools, teachers can choose which to use based on their personal preferences. However, it is essential to note that choosing the right software is critical to creating a high-quality eLearning experience.