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COVID-19 has resulted in a dramatic shift in how most of us work and learn. While millions of school-aged children around the world have moved to virtual classrooms, it’s not just kids who’ve adapted to online education.

More and more adults are now relying on online education. Some have been forced to reskill as a result of COVID-19, and others have simply not been able to attend class in person.

While many educational institutions have been offering online education for more than a decade, this shift has forced more traditional institutions to provide everything, from lectures to labs, virtually.

Even with this massive shift, there are still obstacles when it comes to the widespread adoption and success of online education. Online educators will need to continue this forward momentum into the future to stay competitive in the online education field. 

Here are our predictions for what the online education landscape will look like in 2025.

Increased Educational Program Options and Accessibility

Certain programs or degrees have always been executed under a traditional education model. With the changes brought about by COVID-19, traditional education institutions have been forced to provide these programs through online learning at home, demonstrating that it can be done. 

In the future, more students will choose online education due to the flexibility. This means that institutions that want to stay competitive in the long term will need to fully embrace the online education model as an option for students. 

The reality is that one of the biggest challenges faced in higher education is accessibility — both financially and physically. 

Choosing to complete a four-year degree can be an expensive endeavor and it’s not uncommon for graduates to finish their schooling in debt by tens of thousands of dollars. According to a US News annual survey, 2019 graduates took out an average of over $30,000 in student loans

In contrast, online education is generally much more financially feasible than traditional education, thanks to the condensed, skills-based approach and a shorter timeline to complete. 

Additionally, online education is the perfect solution for those who can’t easily attend in-person. It opens up options for people who live too far to commute to a campus, can’t keep a traditional Monday to Friday schedule, have family commitments, or a host of other factors that can make getting to campus for an in-person class a challenge.

Alternatives to Traditional Degrees 

While traditional four-year degree programs are still a strong option for many people, there’s been a shift where employers are placing more emphasis on skills, not degrees.

For example, offerings like Udacity’s Nanodegree programs have emerged as a practical solution as they’re highly focused on the practical application of skills, which is exactly what employers are looking for.

A Nanodegree program is a project and skills-based educational credential program. Students enroll in the program, learn a suite of skills, complete a specified number of projects to demonstrate proficiency of the skills learned. 

While traditional four-year degree programs are still a strong option for many people, there’s been a shift where employers are placing more emphasis on skills, not degrees. As a result, Nanodegree programs offer a practical solution as they’re highly focused on the practical application of skills, which is exactly what employers are looking for.

From an educational standpoint, one big draw for Nanodegree programs is that they are taught by industry experts and professionals. The content taught is the most up-to-date in terms of what’s really happening in the field and the teachers have real-world, practical experiences to draw upon. 

Plus, many Nanodegree programs offer a variety of levels, which is especially appealing for those looking to build on previous educational experiences. Being able to choose from beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels means the student can start exactly where they need to.

For someone with professional experience that’s simply looking to uplevel, they can go right to the Nanodegree program they need — and not have to spend an extra two or three years getting a traditional degree.

Greater Incorporation of Next-Generation Technologies 

Augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality all have a role to play in the future of online education. Much of online education had previously relied on a model more focused on the solo study, but as technology continues to evolve and more education institutions adopt it, there’s an opportunity to provide a more hands-on learning experience. 

For example, the use of virtual reality to run a science experiment, or the use of AI to practice hands-on skills (like surgery) can be used to enhance the online education experience.

A big draw for students choosing traditional education is the human connections they’re able to make, so educational institutions will be looking to more widely adopt things including user-generated content, social platforms, and video conferencing to help create a similar experience for online students.

Everything from course lessons to group socialization activities can be enhanced through technology, creating an opportunity for more students who may not have previously considered online education to use the modality.

Reap the Benefits of Online Education 

Online education has quickly become the new normal in 2020, and while it’s unlikely traditional education will ever be obsolete, the online education field has the potential to continue growing and expanding into places it’s never before been.

By choosing the right online education institution, you can set yourself up for the best success possible for your future — on your timeline and at a much more budget-friendly price point. 

Are you considering online education to uplevel your skills or increase your education in a particular field?

Udacity offers a comprehensive course catalog to help you find your perfect program and get the skills top companies are looking for.

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