Online learning is the new normal. Now what?

In 2020, we experienced the sudden, crashing shift to remote work, remote… everything. And the forced mass-adoption of remote learning is one of the biggest sources of pain and opportunity – depending on who you are and who you ask.

Remote learning isn’t new – think correspondence courses in the 19th century, radio-based schooling in remote locations, and fully-remote universities like the UK’s Open University.

It was a natural evolution for learning to move online. The ‘year of the MOOC’ was almost 10 years ago, and online courses have been growing fast ever since.

But the last year has changed things. How could it not?

Online learning has been pushed ‘over the chasm’ 10 years early. It’s now the mainstream, like remote working. We’re not all going back to the office 5 days a week; and we’re not going back to online learning being just a fall-back option, even when everything’s ‘normal’ again. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

But it feels like remote learning hasn’t been as successful as remote working. We have issues…

  • ‘Emergency mode’ remote learning, struggling to replicate the in-person experience over Zoom.
  • Courses that ignore decades of research into how we learn.
  • Online courses that exclude some learners.
  • Courses that transmit content to be passively consumed, rather than creating active learning experiences.

That’s why we need a renewed focus on effective learning experiences.