Online education was already on an upward trend before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many learners out of the traditional classroom and into the world of online learning. With widespread job loss creating a new market for adults needing to change careers, the need for socially distanced learning environments has only grown as the world continues to cope with the effects of the pandemic. These are five of the ways COVID-19 has impacted online education.
1. Traditional Colleges Moving Coursework Online
Most traditional colleges were already offering a portion of their catalog online. However, because setting up and maintaining socially distant environments in traditional classrooms is difficult and enforcing guidelines against large gatherings of students on campus has proven challenging, many traditional colleges and universities have moved all or most of their instruction online to protect students and teachers from the potential spread of the virus.
2. Increase in Adult Learners
By the end of July, as many as 40 million Americans had lost jobs because of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. While some will eventually be able to return to their old employment, many people have turned to online education as a way to learn more skills and improve their chances of finding a new job in a highly competitive job market.
3. Growth of E-Learning Market
Online education is expected to be a $325 billion worldwide industry by 2025. In the United States, the e-learning market is expected to grow by nearly $13 billion over the next four years. Mobile e-learning and augmented and virtual reality are expected to become increasingly important to a rapidly evolving e-learning industry. In addition to the increase in online offerings from colleges and universities, there has been rapid growth in the market for online corporate training.
4. K-12 Moving Online
Unlike higher education, prior to the pandemic, online classwork at the K-12 level was mostly restricted to homeschooling environments. The end of the 2019/2020 school year saw many districts struggling to create online education options for school children as schools across the country shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. Over the summer, many school districts began developing more robust online options to accommodate a school year that may be partially or entirely online. It will be interesting to see if students exposed to online learning at the K-12 level will be more inclined to pursue online education at the college level than their peers.
5. Shift To Online Friendly Career Paths
While colleges are working hard to make all of their degrees accessible online, some programs translate more easily to online platforms than others. Business degree options are popular both because many business classes were already being offered online and because many of the careers business majors go into after graduation are conducive to remote work.
Online education was already a rapidly growing industry before the global pandemic. As the world continues to adjust to rapidly changing conditions, online education is expected to continue to play an important role in the foreseeable future.