Over the last several years, the virtual learning industry has been growing dramatically.

Nowadays, virtual education isn’t just about video conferencing or watching pre-recorded videos — it’s about designing a fully-immersive experience for students.

These massive changes and innovations can be both an opportunity and a challenge for instructors. To ride the wave, you must learn where the market is heading and develop the essential skills to be prepared.

Today, we’ll discuss six trends we’re seeing in the industry and how they may change virtual learning this year.

1. Virtual Learning Has Come to Stay (and to Innovate)

Back in the Middle Ages, education was restricted to just a handful of people — nobles and spiritual leaders. If you were born a peasant, you’d probably be doomed to ignorance for the rest of your life.

Compare that to the current state of education.

We live in the age of universal knowledge. With just a couple of clicks, anyone can access unlimited information about any topic.

The fact that you can build a personalized education plan and study at your own pace is making our society more eager to develop new skills online.

Last year, nearly 5 out of 10 students enrolled in at least one online course.

An even more surprising fact states that, in 2020, virtual learning increased 16% with a respective decrease in instructor-led education.

With people spending more time at home and the increasing volume of e-learning innovations, this trend will probably increase in 2021.

Take Preply, for example.

Preply

This platform helps students learn (and master) any language with the help of expert tutors.

If you take a look at their website, you’ll find a section listing all the languages you can learn. Even more surprisingly, you can find hundreds (even thousands) of expert tutors available.

StuDocu is another great example of innovation in the education market. StuDocu helps students find resources and documents shared by other students in just a couple of clicks. It’s a remarkable way to help users save time while finding reliable information sources online.

StuDocu

Like Preply and StuDocu, many brands are creating new opportunities for instructors and teachers to develop better programs and make them available to broader audiences.

To tap into this trend, ask yourself: how can I adapt my current programs and courses to the new age of learning? And which platforms could help me reach the right audience?

By answering these questions, you can think of ways to use these changes as an opportunity, not a threat.

2. Increased Demand for Online Universities

Sure, virtual learning is growing, but what about formal education? Students still prefer the traditional ways, right?

Well, not quite.

Studies suggest that 41% of students think that, compared to college-level classroom experiences, online education is better (38% believe it is about the same).

Increased Demand for Online Universities

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While many people believed that school closures caused by COVID-19 would be a threat to education quality, research indicates the opposite. Students are becoming more conscious of the benefits of online universities.

Besides, online universities give busy people (like employees or parents) the opportunity to develop new skills and grow without neglecting activities.

As the authors of BestValueSchools.org put it:

“That is one of the main reasons why online colleges and universities have become so popular: they give the busy, working adult an avenue to join an online degree program and get their certification while still maintaining their jobs and hectic lifestyle.”

Now, does this mean that traditional universities will become obsolete?

Of course not.

But we’ll probably see an increasing number of people preferring the virtual option.

A quick Google search will prove that point.

The search term, “online universities,” provides 5,870,000,000 results. That’s an overwhelming amount of information for someone looking for options.

3. Greater Adoption of AI-Powered Platforms

Over the last few years, software adoption among educational institutions has been growing consistently, and within reason. The right platform can increase education efficiency without sacrificing quality.

Greater Adoption of AI-Powered Platforms

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Thanks to AI, teachers and instructors have an opportunity with no precedent: the ability to streamline both student-facing and back-office processes in a cost-effective way.

By merging technology with “the flesh,” higher education institutions can achieve more efficient operations and improved services, all while making fewer mistakes. Automation companies are starting to notice.

For instance, frevvo, a popular workflow automation software, has launched a new division exclusively designed for higher education organizations and institutions.

And frevvo isn’t alone. Many software companies are expanding their platforms to fit the increasing need for automation in the virtual learning industry.

Thanks to software and AI, we’ll probably experience a massive shift in education, starting this year.

By streamlining their processes, instructors and trainers can get the most out of their time, personalize education, and help students in a more meaningful way.

4. More Training for Educators and Instructors

As we’ve seen so far, virtual education can bring in many benefits, like increased productivity, the ability to reach broader audiences, and a more competent society. But it also comes with challenges, especially for instructors and trainers.

Many educators aren’t prepared to use technology to assess students and deliver high-value content. For some of them, using something simple like Zoom or Google Classrooms represents a huge challenge, let alone AI-powered software.

If you believe that you need more simple options than the two mentioned before, you can check this list of the best webinar software and choose one that will better fit your needs and capabilities.

Before these instructors can provide a positive virtual education experience for their students, they must develop new skills.

Many people are tapping into this opportunity by creating education programs for teachers and instructors.

This course on “How to use Zoom” is a great example.

How To Use Zoom

Training for teachers, instructors, and educators will be a huge market over the next few years.

5. A Growing Number of “Microlearning” Platforms and Higher Budgets for Corporate Training

In short, microlearning is an e-learning practice that focuses on delivering small learning units to students. Trainers can deliver these units in the form of video or text, and students can take the lessons at their convenience.

Why does this matter?

We live in an accelerated world.

People live hectic lives and have shorter attention spans. The need for a different form of education — one that adapts to these changes — is evident.

Microlearning platforms offer a solution to this problem.

Companies like MasterClass and TalendCards understand that fact. Through their educational platforms, you can learn through easily-digested bits of information that can be applied immediately.

This is especially helpful in the corporate training world.

Since COVID-19, many organizations were forced to cancel some of their key training programs. To keep their employees productive and updated with best practices in the industry, companies are looking for alternatives.

Studies suggest that roughly 62% of teams affected by the pandemic will spend more on virtual training in 2021.

This is a huge opportunity for education consultants and software companies to design new methodologies and training systems for employees in a post-pandemic era, especially if such systems are based on microlearning.

6. The Age of Mobile Education

By 2025, mobile learning could become a $78.5 billion industry.

Event organizers, instructors, educators, and anyone involved with e-learning must be aware of the vital role mobile education will play over the next decade.

In 2021, we’ll probably see the rise of many learning platforms designed with the mobile-user in mind.

And we aren’t talking about “responsiveness.” We’re talking about platforms with interfaces especially structured for mobile functionality.

Combined with microlearning, mobile education is a great opportunity to make education more available and universal.

Now you can train employees, educate students, and offer better programs to people on the go, or while they wait in line.

The Bottom Line

Virtual learning isn’t new, but it changes so fast that it feels new. And if you aren’t careful, this industry can be like a two-edged sword — an opportunity for those who ride the wave on time and a threat for those who don’t.

Hopefully, this article gives you some ideas about the direction virtual learning is taking and, more important, what to do about it.

Whether you’re a teacher, an event organizer, or a corporate instructor, these trends can revolutionize the way you work in a positive way.