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Online learning has been around in one form or another for more than 60 years, but in its constantly evolving state, it’s now become more popular than ever among educators. From the crude, elementary days of “distance learning,” where mail order courses were all the rage, to today’s massive open online courses [MOOCs] taken by thousands of students, education for the masses at home for free (at your own pace) is no longer the wave of the future — the future is now.

Online learning is constantly evolving for students in so-called traditional classrooms, as well. It’s called blended learning and universities and organizations of all sizes are leveraging the benefits, including cost savings, to bring together large groups of learners online to facilitate formal and informal learning on-demand and instructor-led with technology assisting in the delivery of the learning materials.

There is long and exciting road of changes to online education ahead of us. But before looking at where we’re heading, let’s take a moment to see where we’ve been.

How Kids Learn Today:

54% of 21st Century Kids start using Mobile Devices when they are 5-8 years old.
30% of the apps on parents’ mobile device are downloaded specially for their children’s usage.
77% of the parents accept that usage of tablet increases children’s learning & creativity.
72% of iTunes top selling apps are designed for pre-schoolers and elementary students.

Now, as students get older, if they would like to continue taking online courses, there are a variety of formats. The following are the most common:

Adult Online Education: The U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) promotes programs that “ help adults learn the basic skills they need to be productive workers, family members, and citizens.” It’s easy to find such programs online. Courses are geared toward teaching basic math, science, reading, and problem solving skills.
Hybrid Education: Combines online coursework and materials with traditional in-class education. Students learn in a face-to-face setting as well as via the Internet.
Online Continuing Education: Offers classes for students who already have a degree but need (or want) to take one or two specific classes in order to advance their skills in a certain area. Continuing ed does not lead to a degree upon completion.
Online Distance Education: A student pursuing a degree at a traditional school may take courses online rather than all face-to-face classes.
Online Higher Education: For students who want to attend college but for whatever reason (e.g. time constraints, family responsibilities, health issues, etc.) cannot attend a traditional school. Online higher education programs result in associate’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, just like their traditional counterparts.

5 Emerging Education Channels on You Tube

It’s OK to be Smart
TeeHee Town
The Art Assignment
Baby League
Slide Nerd

Trends in Teaching Styles

Teachers teach differently from the “old” days when blackboards and chalk were used. Now it’s smart boards and iPads. Three trends are emerging in teaching styles and learning, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Classes will feature:

Collaboration: New teaching techniques about access and collaboration
Technology Powered Learning: No more pencils, no more books
Blended Learning: Online and in classroom

Free courses are taught by experts around the world (MOOCs).

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MOOCs: Where Online Education is Free

The Top 3 MOOC providers:

Coursera (2012)
• 5 million students
• 532 courses
• 107 partner schools
• Students from 190 countries

Edx (2012)
• 1.65 million students
• 125 courses
• 30 partners
• 225 countries

Udacity (2012)
• 1.8 million students
• 33 courses
• 16 partners
• 190 countries

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Other Sources of Free Knowledge:

Udemy Free Courses – Udemy allows anyone to build or take online courses. Udemy’s site exclaims, “Our goal is to disrupt and democratize education by enabling anyone to learn from the world’s experts.”
iTunesU — Apple’s free app “gives students access to all the materials for courses in a single place. Right in the app, they can play video or audio lectures. Read books and view presentations.”
Stanford – From Quantum Mechanics to The Future of the Internet.
UC Berkeley – Check out: Berkeley Webcasts and Berkeley RSS Feeds.
MIT – Check out MIT’s RSS MOOC feed.
Duke – Duke offers courses on iTunesU.
Harvard – Get a free Harvard education. “Take a class for professional development, enrichment, and degree credit. Courses run in the fall, spring, or intensive January session. No application required.”
UCLA – Check out their writing program, with over 220 free courses a year.
Open Yale — school offers “free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University.
Carnegie Mellon

The Most Popular Online Degrees Are:

• Business Administration
• Accounting
• Information Technology
• Finance
• Psychology

The future of Online Education is… the great unknown. Children in nurseries will be learning through MOOCs. In 2014, an estimated 10.5 million pre-schoolers will have taken at least some online course. What will education be like in 10 years? It may well have robot, a computer, with artificial intelligence, teaching a class. Safe to say that whatever it will be, 22nd century education will be unrecognizable to those of us in the 21st century.