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Three Trends to Watch in Online Higher Education

by SUMMIT on June 23rd, 2015

Three Trends to Watch in Online Higher Education

The online enrollment has slowed down in the past few years. Therefore, online education programs are exploring new formats that are more appealing to students. New models of online higher education are incorporating more real-time instruction. Not only does this turn course work into competition, it also broadens the definition itself.

The following are three emerging trends you should watch for in the online higher education space:


Many online higher education institutes are now incorporating game-like modules in their programs. These leverage students’ ambition. For example, the New England College of Business and Finance provides such modules for their undergraduate and graduate students.

These modules are very competitive and business-focused, acting like hands-on, practical sessions for students. Students, especially those pursuing MBAs, participate in a simulation and steer their own businesses. They also must justify their actions and results to their fictitious board of directors.

The undergraduate digital marketing program at the New England College of Business and Finance is similar. It requires students to compete with their classmates in building a website for a chosen non-profit group. The teacher sends the top three submissions to the organization.

Such gamification of courses adds a competitive element, helpings students gain and retain knowledge. They tap into the users’ basic needs and desires and focus on impulses, revolving around ideas such as status and achievements.

Students usually recall only 10 percent of what they read and 20 percent of what they hear. The number rises to 30 percent if visuals accompany an oral presentation. If someone explains the whole thing while carrying out an action, it jumps to 50 percent. When they do the job themselves, students remember 90 percent of the program.


As the impact of mobile continues to grow, we expect it to become a dominant medium for online higher education. In fact, low barriers to connectivity and hundreds of apps make learning-on-the-go a possibility. Brandman University has a competency based learning program on a mobile platform which allows students to access 30,000 pages of course material via smartphones and tablets.

Such education modules are easy to access. They promote contextual learning, depending on learners’ locations and presents the content in an easy-to-understand, simple format so students can read and remember information.

Project-Based Learning

Growing over the past few years, project-based learning is a trend in both online and offline higher education sectors. This requires students to demonstrate their mastery of academic concepts by creating a product. The College for America at Southern New Hampshire University has already incorporated this module for their online courses.

Students at the College for America pursuing an online associate degree need to earn credentials by completing projects instead of just completing courses and writing exams on a set schedule. These projects are aimed to demonstrate specific skills and competencies in a chosen field of study and they can be revised, should a student fall short on the first attempt.

This is a more personalized approach to education, based on the curriculum and learning environments to help the students reach their academic goals. At the same time, they gain practical experience through completing the projects. It is adjusting to the pace of instruction as well as the learning approach and helps leverage the learners’ interests and expectations.

Photo Credit: Kaiser081391 via Compfight cc

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