Online education offers students incredible learning opportunities without the need for a physical classroom. From K-12 tools to virtual universities, various options empower students and educators to make the most of their educational experiences. By removing the school bus from the equation, online education enables students to attend classes remotely, which eliminates commute times and transportation costs, as well as allows for added scheduling flexibility.
What’s Happening Now in Online Education
Though online education isn’t new, communication tools like WebRTC are enabling the industry to transform at a rapid pace. Quality video, voice, and messaging tools are allowing for greater methods of communication to encourage collaboration and learning among students and educators.
Previous online education efforts, often categorized as eLearning, are adopting more mobile-friendly learning options in a shift toward mLearning, or mobile learning. mLearning solutions include applications and communication tools that are mobile-first, adjusting online learning methods to better accommodate the way modern users interact with technology.
Market Size: Gartner Perspective on Online Education
The global online education market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10.26 percent CAGR through 2023, creating a market worth nearly $287 billion.
A 2018 survey by Gartner found that 77 percent of K-12 education CIOs believe utilizing technology to improve education and student success is their industry’s top priority. Because of the potential for online learning to disrupt the entire education industry, 59 percent of the same CIOs believe technology will change education’s very business model.
A key driver of online education growth is a new emphasis on learning in the Asia-Pacific region, bringing students to digital education platforms to aid self-learning in regions typically underserved by teachers and universities
What Online Education is Used For
Online education is more accessible, connected, and interactive than ever before. Educational organizations can create virtual classrooms that bring together students and educators anywhere across the world. Tools like WebRTC enable real-time video, voice, and messaging to encourage collaboration among online learners. Virtual classrooms and seminars also allow guest speakers or lecturers to participate over the internet, presenting students with unique learning opportunities from subject matter experts whose presence might not be possible in a physical space.
Software platforms like TokBox, powered by WebRTC, enable developers to take collaboration a step further by offering students screen sharing, archiving, and annotation tools. With screen sharing, educators can help guide and assist students throughout the learning process. Video archiving allows students to access previously recorded classes or lectures, so they can brush up on subject matter or make up a missed course. Whiteboard-like annotation tools let students and educators collaborate as they would in the real world, demonstrating concepts and ideas through familiar drawing tools.
WebRTC also powers TokBox’s learning-management system (LMS), which offers better collaboration between students and educators. Within the LMS, classmates can collaborate with one another on projects and share files and documents directly with their teachers.
Main Concerns for Online Education
One key criticism of online education is a perceived lack of quality. The rise of for-profit online colleges has led to the stigma of online universities acting as diploma mills, churning out students who receive a sub-par education with little accountability from the educator.
Like remote employment, online education can also be a difficult adjustment for those unfamiliar with the responsibilities of an endeavor that only takes place online. Unlike a physical classroom where a student must be present to learn, virtual classrooms accessed over the internet offer more possibilities for students to become distracted, uninterested or unengaged with lectures or discussions.
Where Online Education is Headed
As eLearning shifts toward mLearning, expect the development of more mobile-focused education tools that take advantage of emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
In one high-profile example that shows off AR’s potential, an educational software developer took advantage of Apple’s ARKit to create Froggipedia, a digital frog dissection application. Using similar methods, hospitals and healthcare teams are even training their surgeons to perform real-life surgical procedures using AR and VR apps.
Through technology like WebRTC, AR and VR experiences will have the ability to be streamed to devices in real time, enabling augmented or virtual learning experiences connected to a group of digital peers.
Online education has an exciting future with the integration of these tools. Let's see where it takes us.