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Higher education is evolving. More students are learning online than ever. And colleges and universities globally are faced with new challenges of digital transformation.

Here are 10 eLearning trends shaping education today that speak to wide-scale digital change in higher education.

eLearning Trends In Higher Education

Postsecondary online courses and programs are increasing in demand.

The number of undergraduate students in at least one online course was 97% higher in 2020 than in the fall of 2019 before the pandemic (11.8 million vs. 6.0 million). And the number of students exclusively enrolled in online courses was 186% higher in 2020 than in 2019 (7.0 million vs. 2.4 million).

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Distance Learning Fast Facts, 2022

Since the pandemic, students have been more open to learning online.

The pandemic showed many students the benefits of learning online.

In a national survey from 2021, 60% of learners enrolled in on-campus programs–but forced to take classes online due to Covid-19–said they are more likely to enroll in a fully online class in the future.

And 58% said they would enroll in multiple online courses.

Source: Best Colleges, 2022 Online Education Trends Report

And non-degree programs have been on the rise.

Postsecondary students have more learning options at their fingertips than ever before. Between boot camps, certifications, micro-credentialing, and vocational apprenticeships, remote learning is building new pathways for educational opportunities globally.

Today, undergraduate students prefer non-degree programs at a 12% increase from what they used to. Graduate students have seen the biggest increase in preference for non-degree programs at a 26% increase.
And while non-degree credentials are a new negotiation for employers, educational perspectives are changing in job markets. Some major employers are even waiving degree requirements entirely for job seekers.

Similarly, 71% of executives said certain alternative credentials equate to a bachelor’s degree, but only 36% of HR professionals agreed.

Source: Encoura, Eduventures Adult Prospect Research, Shifting Credential Preferences

Colleges and universities serve more nontraditional students today.

Student identity in the 21st century is changing. Today, college-level students want flexible learning options that accommodate life outside the classroom.

These students have families, jobs, and career aspirations. According to the Lumina Foundation, 64% of college students work–and 40% are employed full-time. 9% of college students are first-generation immigrants, and 42% are students of color.

Source: Lumina Foundation, Today’s Student

For students in online programs, balancing education with work, families, and obligations outside of class is their primary concern.

In a national survey, 25% of all respondents about remote and online learning say that balancing education with life outside class is their biggest priority.

And 30% of prospective students–or those considering enrolling in an online program–agree.

Source: Best Colleges, 2022 Online Education Trends Report

eLearning Trends for Student Learning Preferences

Student modality preferences are changing.

As of 2022, the preference for remote learning for undergraduates has increased threefold, with 29% of students desiring entirely online courses.

Source: 2022 Students and Technology Report: Rebalancing the Student Experience

Hybrid or HyFlex is what students want most.

In a 2021-22 report on modality preferences in higher education, 63% of students surveyed nationally reported they want a hybrid or HyFlex education–or a blend of in-person and virtual offerings.

Educational leaders see multimodal learning (MML) as a blueprint for innovating learning experiences that shift traditional education towards a new diversification of accessible forms of knowledge-sharing and meaning-making.

Source: The 2021-22 Multimodal Learning Framework, Economist Impact

Student engagement is still challenging in online courses–but active learning strategies help.

Lecture-based learning online may not promote the engagement necessary for students to succeed.

Differently, active classrooms, which include opportunities for students to participate in discussions, problem-solve, investigate case studies, and make real-world connections, ensure better engagement and success rates with higher cognitive application.

A 2020 survey of students participating in active learning formats reported 25-41% increased satisfaction with workload, instructor quality, and learning experiences.

Source: Frontiers, Active Learning to Improve Student Learning Experiences in an Online Postgraduate Course

The Outlook of eLearning Trends in Online Education

The future of online coursework could be immersive and interactive.

The future of learning encompasses new modes of digital transformation at institutions, including emerging technologies that develop and deliver agile and flexible educational strategies and immersive ones.

75% of higher education faculty agree that a multimodal learning landscape needs learning spaces equipped with technology that makes coursework full-scale, immersive, and even 24/7.

Source: The 2021-22 Multimodal Learning Framework, Economist Impact

College enrollment is down–which means institutions need strong differentiators.

Between 2020 and 2022, college enrollment decreased by more than 3%.

With enrollment numbers dwindling, institutions need stronger differentiators to maintain and increase matriculation rates.

Meeting students where they are–online–and exceeding expectations for what digital learning can look and feel like is a critical way to stay relevant in this evolving age.

Source: Forbes, College Enrollment Losses Continue

Is Your Institution Prepared for the Digital eLearning Future?

We now know that learner expectations have shifted due to their recent experiences. We developed a blueprint for success to help higher education administrators, faculty, and instructional designers implement successful online programming at colleges and universities.

Download it to help keep pace with digital transformation and increase institutional responsiveness.

Jamie Turak
Jamie Turak

Jamie Turak is an Education Content Manager at Class. He's passionate about storytelling and helping to make education more accessible.

Jamie Turak
Jamie Turak

Jamie Turak is an Education Content Manager at Class. He's passionate about storytelling and helping to make education more accessible.

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