Year after year, predictions for education are inspired by the advancement in technology. However, too often, the anticipated changes are nothing but superfluous gimmicks. Just imagine iPads instead of books, interactive whiteboards instead of chalk and blackboards, or VR tours instead of field trips.
True, with the help of AI and Big Data, technology influences education on deeper levels as well. However, significant trends and issues in education are connected with reforming the educational system instead of band-aiding cracks in its walls with shiny tech toys. Newest trends are about finding a golden medium between the standardized and the personalized. It will allow teaching the necessary skills while at the same time nurturing unique talents and respecting the individual paces of all students.
Of course, the education industry for 2021 will also be shaped by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
Trends in Higher Education: Gap Years and Online Degrees
Among the higher education trends predicted for 2020 was a decline in enrollment caused by economic stability. As a rule, economic turbulence (like the 2007-2009 recession) drives enrollment figures up since high-school graduates struggle to find employment and continue their education to buy some time. On the other hand, in a healthy economy, college loses some of its attraction.
However, this is nothing compared to the decline caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact. Specialists from SimpsonScarborough marketing research company predict a 20% loss of enrollment. In fact, 10% of college-bound seniors who intended to enter college have already made other plans. Others are uncertain and anxious over the possibility of contracting the disease. Gap years are becoming increasingly popular.
However, more alarmingly, students that are already enrolled feel disappointed by the online learning experience. Apparently, while it provides many opportunities, it still fails at engaging students with the material, the instructor, and each other. It is inefficient – at least in its current implementation.
On the brighter side of future trends in higher education is the rising prestige and acceptability of online degrees and certificates. It’s not a secret that they weren’t taken seriously before by the majority of employers.
Even peers would frown upon an online graduate and treat him or her as a cheater who somehow cuts corners. Instead, 2020 has shown that, if anything, getting your degree online requires even more work, focus, and determination than obtaining it on campus.
Online Education Trends: Accessibility and Engagement Challenges
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all invention. If nothing better, 2020 gave us insight into online education as the new normal – and it was not as rosy as we expected.
The transition was anything but smooth. Schools and colleges were scrambling to respond to the disruptions. Teachers and students alike had to learn on the go. Now, about to launch the next semester, we can already say that online education has much room for improvement.
On the one hand, it proved to be flexible, cost-effective, and accessible in times of social distancing and other limitations. On the other hand, there are two major systematic problems: Zoom fatigue and lack of fast internet connection for all students. Educators are yet to develop new techniques and rhythms to engage students in the comfort of their homes. Meanwhile, states and local communities are yet to come up with comprehensive programs to support students without stable access to the internet.
On the bright side, education accessibility increases through the wide adoption of OER (Open Educational Resources). Many US teachers are already showing a preference for digital materials hosted online instead of costly paper books. This trend is global and strongly supported by UNESCO for its inclusivity and openness.
Current Trends in Education: Mobile Learning and Microlearning
One of the latest trends that are gaining mainstream acceptance is microlearning powered by mobile learning. Many have lamented the short attention spans of modern students. However, those periods of concentration are intense, even though fleeting. While they are interested, learners today are motivated and soak the knowledge in eagerly. This is why the timely delivery of educational content in small bursts is what awaits learning in 2021 and beyond. Examples of such micro-content are quizzes, images, short audio, video, texts, and of course, games.
The “micro” aspect also applies to module size and duration of courses. Providing to-the-point, specific content in small units and steps will increase the long-term retention of knowledge.
This broken rhythm of learning can only be achieved through the use of mobile devices. Apps like Duolingo, Quizlet, and Flashcard Maker will become models for new tools aimed at delivering the core curriculum, instead of being a fringe educational aid. For example, some prestigious schools in the US already accept Duolingo Language Certificate as proof of English proficiency for ESL applicants.
New Trends in Education: Fluid Learning and Big Data
Among the future trends shaping the education landscape for years to come is a new concept of fluid learning. Knowledge and work are changing rapidly, and people have to learn continuously. From this dynamic environment emerges fluid learning – the ultimate agency of the learner, who, instead of mastering pre-defined blocks of knowledge, seeks to fill the gaps between different areas of expertise.
Today, when people are faced with a lack of knowledge to solve the problem, they don’t turn to a formal institution for a standard course. They use open sources (like instructional videos, open courses, or peer groups) and make their own decisions about their learning. Integrating knowledge from different spheres of their life, learners gradually build unique identities with singular insight that cannot be obtained through any existing formal course. A significant cultural shift needs to happen for this trend to gain mainstream popularity. However, we can see it already gathering momentum.
Another trend is the adoption of Big Data. Although it is already mainstream across many industries, education is lagging behind, with only 17% of institutions using Big Data technologies today. For comparison, in Business, Tech, Consumer services, and Finances, these numbers are between 50 and 60%.
Still, the share of data-driven systems in education is growing. For example, tested at the University of Baltimore in Maryland, Learning Management System has improved students’ performance. On a bigger scale, schools could use Big Data to increase the effectiveness of their course design. Another vector is institutional decision-making, such as the optimization of advising programs and admissions outreach.
Technological Trends in Education: AI-Enabled Assessment and Continuous Testing
Technology regularly makes breakthrough after breakthrough in special education. It gives tools of communication for non-verbal students. It helps people with dyslexia by continually improving text-to-speech and speech-to-text programs. These, however, are more to do with accessibility and bridging the gap than with reshaping the learning as we know it.
While technology has become inextricably integrated into the delivery of learning materials, tech still has an innovation or two up its sleeves. For example, AI-enabled assessment will reduce the workload for teachers. Such tools as Nearpod, Glider.ai, and iSpringSuite are already making evaluation easier for teachers with online quizzes and questionnaires.
Moreover, AI will power flexible and meaningful individualized learning. By continuous unobtrusive testing, AI-systems will detect particular topics that individual students are struggling with and suggest personalized assistance. Such tools as Happy Numbers have shown their efficiency in improving students’ performance and raising their Math scores.
We also continually improve ourselves to ensure the best learning experience for you. Intuitive tools, flexibility, personalized assistance, and the high expertise of professional paper writers have always been at the heart of PaperHelp. In 2021, we hope to become even more useful!