What Is the Future of Online Education?

As the ever-expanding enrollment in online programs illustrates, the attraction to online education shows no signs of slowing down. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, leading many to wonder about the future of online education.

Future of Online Education

A comparison of online enrollment from the fall terms of 2013 and 2014 showed a nearly four percent increase in students, as reported by the Sloan Consortium. Since many educators expect this trend to continue, online education will likely be subject to future advances in technology. It is also expected that online education will move further away from traditional forms of education and that more programs will one day be available in online formats.

Some developments and changes which will impact the future of online education include:

  • Webcasting
  • Student-directed learning
  • Increase in school participation

Important Facts About Online Education

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees available
Prerequisites Varies, depending upon intended program of enrollment; a high school diploma, or equivalent, is typically required for enrollment in an associate's or bachelor's degree program
Concentrations English, finance, health information management, psychology, sociology, history, information technologies, marketing, mathematics
Possible Careers Web developer, producer, director, technical writer, cost estimator, budget analyst, interior designer, construction manager, management analyst


Webcasting, in its most basic form, refers to broadcasting over the Internet. Largely used in corporate settings for teleconferences, webcasting is expected to see an increased presence in online education over the next several years. As technology continues to improve the systems which operate webcasts, a growing number of schools may utilize this technology for teaching online courses.

Student-Directed Learning

While many current online programs allow students to learn at their own pace, some project that future versions of online education might see an increase in student self-direction and self-motivation. Web-based simulation and gaming techniques may allow students more freedom in dictating what and how they will learn. More use of student-managed personal learning environments and less direction from instructors is expected for future online education environments.

Providing Convenience and Saving Money

According to an article from November 2013 in the New York Times, online education allows students to save money and time, with some big name schools introducing online degree programs for a fraction of what the program would cost at the brick and mortar school. Students will also be able to make their education better fit their lifestyles. For example, if they don't like the idea of living on campus, an online program would allow them the option of living anywhere they wanted.

In an article on Forbes.com in December 2012, the President & CEO of eCornell made some interesting predictions about what he expects to happen in online education. Among these predictions were that top-tier schools will be more aggressive in the development of their online offerings, there will be a continued development of hybrid programs, a decrease in costs for higher education and significant changes to the traditional education model for how teachers teach.

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