Distance learning, also known as online education, is undeniably the most significant advancement of our era: It is set to be the primary choice of education by 2025, with the industry projected to reach a value of $350 billion by the same year.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic was undoubtedly a monumental milestone for education, as it compelled nearly 1.6 billion students to transition to mandatory distance learning, away from the traditional physical classroom setting. This unprecedented shift forced individuals, institutions, and even entire countries to reassess and redefine their approach to education.
As far back as 1997, globally recognized management guru Peter Drucker put forth the idea that universities would undergo significant transformations within three decades. Drucker’s argument centered on the shortcomings of current university infrastructures and learning methodologies (Lenzner and Johnson, 1997). Yet what is the factor that will shape the future of online education?
The digital transformation of education is inevitable
The digital transformation of education is inevitable. Artificial intelligence promises fresh insights into the potential for adaptability and personalization in e-learning. Universities are actively seeking new strategies, taking into account market dynamics, product innovations and partnerships. Additionally, the growing global interest in various forms of learning has spurred the development of so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, which are hosted and curated by major online educational platforms such as Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn, Udemy, and numerous others. Providers of online program management (OPM) play a vital role in supporting the entrepreneurial growth of the digital education sector (EdTech). Their main objective is to capitalize on the educational market in conjunction with established academic institutions. However, the emerging competition in this field carries potential risks, such as distorting the educational process and undermining the identity of existing academic institutions (Dellarocas and Hagiu, 2022). Amidst this ever-evolving landscape, how can a business school ensure the effectiveness of distance education?
In this endeavor, both educational institutions and learners have equally important roles to play in ensuring the quality, impact, engagement, and immersiveness of online programs. The issue of quality holds great significance and is guaranteed through the efforts of the academic staff, learning content and supporting processes. The program’s impact is an integral aspect of achieving learning success, as it reflects the ability of a curriculum to align the intended relevance of the learning material with the explicit or implicit intentions of the learners. We often overlook the fact that distance can hinder the learning process. In distance programs, engagement can only be achieved through carefully designed opportunities that consider the learners’ available time and the potential benefits that arise from their interaction effort. Immersiveness is a final crucial aspect, encompassing the learner’s sense of ownership and motivation towards the program they are enrolled in, as well as the responsibility of the educational institution to ensure the desired learning outcomes.
Dellarocas, C. and Hagiu, A. (2022, December 21). How Higher Ed Can Contend with Learning Platforms. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2022/12/how-higher-ed-can-contend-with-learning-platforms
Lenzner, R. and Johnson, S. (1997, March 10). Seeing Things As They Really Are. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/forbes/1997/0310/5905122a.html