2013 Trends in Online Education and Virtual Learning

January 4th, 2014 No Comments Other

With the year 2013 just behind us and learners taking a breather before diving into their next semester, a new report released by Project Tomorrow in collaboration with Blackboard has lined up some of the biggest trends in online education and virtual learning over the past year.

The report deals with the question of what it means to go through a so-called digital conversion.

In it, the researchers look at the different approaches that schools have been taking as they convert to digital and explore online education; whether that means replacing traditional textbooks with virtual ones, adopting a blended learning model or using online curriculums, digital tools and social media.

“The term ‘digital conversion’ is becoming increasingly prevalent in conversations about how to improve student achievement, enhance teacher effectiveness and stimulate new levels of parental engagement in schools,” note the researchers in their report.

Some of the most important findings they uncovered include:

  • Administrators are widening their scope in regard to the value of online classes, with many including learning opportunities for administrators, teachers and other support staff in addition to students. According to the report, the percentage of administrators who were taking or had taken online classes increased from 24% to 34%, and the number of teachers engaged in online education grew by 24%, while online class participation among support staff doubled over the same period of time.
  • Virtual, blended and flipped learning teachers are using more digital content with students than anyone else. For example, 68% of teachers who have implemented a flipped classroom are making use of online videos, compared to just 47% of other teachers.  
  • Online learning teachers believe that digital tools and resources can play a significant role in improving student and teacher success. The researchers found that the majority of teachers in both flipped learning and fully online classes feel that digital tools and resources increase students’ motivation to learn and help them develop creativity. Another 45% said it helps students take ownership of their learning.
  • Teachers from all learning environments believe that tools and resources make them better instructors by improving their organizational skills, enabling them to create more interactive lessons and increasing their productivity.
  • Parents who have taken an online class for their work expect their children’s school to provide them with similar learning opportunities. Parents who participated in the survey indicated that they would like to see greater investments in online learning as way of enabling more personalized and self-paced learning.
  • Other benefits they cited included the ability for students to review materials as often as desired, the ability to take classes that are unavailable at school and the ability to earn college credit and prepare for college. More students are beginning to view online learning as the gateway to a new education model where they have more control over the whole learning process.

Some of the benefits of engaging in online education that students cited included more control over the learning experience, increased motivation, greater chances of success, and the ability to work at their own pace.

The full report, 2013 Trends in Online Learning: Virtual, Blended and Flipped Classrooms, is available for download at whitepapers.blackboard.com/2013trends.


Marianne Stenger is a London-based freelance writer and journalist with extensive experience covering all things learning and development. She’s particularly interested in the psychology of learning and how technology is changing the way we learn. Her articles have been featured by the likes of ABC Education, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Psych Central. Follow her on Twitter @MarianneStenger.

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