ONLINE & The death of “online” learning in higher ed?

by Craig Weidemann and Karen Pollack , University Business, March 2016.

… by 2025, the phrase “online learning” could disappear from the common vernacular. How could such a good thing die so young? Two words: ubiquity and integration
In the 15 or so years that online learning has been with us, numerous studies have found that learning outcomes in an online environment are the same, if not better, than classroom-based learning outcomes. The question is no longer how online education compares to face-to-face learning, but rather whether the pedagogy enables the student to achieve the intended learning outcomes. The delivery mode is irrelevant…

We have moved from classroom-based learning to electronic learning (eLearning) to mobile learning (mLearning) to ubiquitous learning (uLearning).

Fully immersive learning

What does ubiquitous learning mean to a research-based institution, as we strive to support a vibrant student learning community?

Ten years from now, we will be wearing our devices and experiencing the world around us through a variety of other technologies. We will be talking simply about learning—an immersive experience that is not necessarily live and not necessarily tethered to a physical classroom space. It may not be a wholly online environment, either. The label “online” will fade from existence.

What are the implications of these ubiquitous, integrated learning experiences?..

Diverse and mobile faculty

In the United States, public and private four-year nonprofit institutions showed the largest growth in the number of students taking at least one distance education course, with a 7.2 percent and a 12.7 percent increase, respectively, since 2012-13.

Penn State World Campus is attracting growing numbers of traditional-age students, reflecting a national trend. Although 18- to 24-year-olds are not our target audience, their numbers have increased by 60 percent since 2012-13.

That’s a small percentage of our student body, but one that is clearly growing. Online education is becoming a routine part of the undergraduate college experience.

We might anticipate that by the year 2025 our faculty will look different, too. A tech tool that may be foreign today will be second nature to the faculty of tomorrow. Our faculty, just like our student body, will be increasingly mobile and diverse.

Craig Weidemann is vice president for outreach and vice provost for online learning at Penn State University and Karen Pollack is assistant vice provost for online undergraduate and blended programs.

Read more about uLearning here: Hwang, G.-J., Tsai, C.-C., & Yang, S. J. H. (2008). Criteria, Strategies and Research Issues of Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11 (2), 81-91.