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How the Pandemic Has Accelerated the Demand for Online Education

The shift to embracing online learning was happening before the pandemic.


How has the pandemic accelerated the demand for online education? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

The shift to embracing online learning was happening before the pandemic. Most universities were already offering distance learning in some shape or form, but doubled down during Covid.

This experience of the past year, while at times uncomfortable, accelerated the discovery by educators and students alike of the many benefits of online learning, including increased accessibility, flexibility and collaboration. In fact, a 2021 study found that 68% of students are interested in a combination of in-person and online instruction. This demand is one signal that online education has ample room for growth, even beyond the pandemic.

Anecdotally I’ve heard from instructors that online learning has changed the way they teach and allowed them to reach many more students and interact more frequently. Many have shifted to focus on group work exercise and it has had some incredible outcomes. A professor at a top university in California mentioned that the group work they were able to deploy online deepened student engagement as well as attendance. There was a level of sharing, collaboration and accountability that they didn’t see in their face-to-face classrooms.

Another conversation with a vice provost highlighted the evolving thinking about when in-person interactions are needed. Where initially it was thought that having groups meet was a prerequisite to effective remote collaboration and meaningful community building, this past year proved out that thoughtful online facilitation and the ability to easily connect in an ad-hoc way can also result in valuable community connections and learning. It has him rethinking the possibilities for semi-residential programs and the huge value of having a digital classroom that can be reserved for a set of students 24/7.

2020 was an unprecedented year, and many more people have gotten a taste of what’s possible with online education. As schools and college campuses begin to reopen this fall, I do think that we’ll see a shift in the system to provide a spectrum of learning opportunities, in particular with large growth in online learning.

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