The Future of Online Learning at Colleges & Universities


There is no doubt that the impact of COVID 19 has temporarily changed the way college students traditionally learn in face-to-face classroom settings. Although many colleges and universities were already offering online classes and degrees, the question education experts, administrators, students and faculty are asking now is, Will the COVID-19 pandemic change the future of teaching and learning as we know it?


The reality is that no one knows for sure, but it will be hard to go back to business as usual.


For colleges and universities who were already providing online education, the response to the pandemic was challenging, but not impossible to handle. For those who were unprepared, the inability to respond effectively and swiftly in the face of a crisis was not only challenging, but for many, it was crippling at the same time.


According to Patrick Methvin, who is the head of postsecondary-success programs at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he predicts that “it will be difficult to imagine a fall 2020 where there aren’t some closures” of colleges. In fact, some colleges and universities are being forced to refund parents and students for shortened semesters and dorm room accessibility.


So, what does all this mean?


For better or worse, online education will be expanded because it is here to stay. Now more than ever, institutions of higher learning will need to incorporate online learning courses not only for traditional two and four-year academic programs, they will also need to expand offerings to offer online certification programs to respond and address the economic challenges and workforce needs.


Why Online Learning Makes Sense

Online learning as much as can be said has lots of benefits which include accessibility and flexibility. Online learning helps eliminate the physical barriers that make it difficult for the average person to fulfill their career and academic goals. Online learning allows students to work and be productive from anywhere, and in some cases, at any time based on their own schedules. Since work-school-life life balance can be challenging for most, it makes sense to expand online academic options when it comes to online learning so that traditional and nontraditional students can benefit from this learning option.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Institutions that were not online ready will eventually begin competing to market their online learning capabilities. Parents and students will also include this requirement on their college selection checklists. Even more importantly, the business model for most colleges and universities will need to be reexamined in order to deal with the realities of a post COVID 19 pandemic world.


Bottom line. The future of online learning is here to stay, whether we like it or not and whether we are ready or not.