Written by: David L. Lantz, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
If you are a frequent reader of Brainz Magazine, you are likely someone who is an expert in their field and interested in staying at the top of your game. Like me, you probably are on the lookout for ways to reach a wider audience. If I’ve accurately described you, I’d like to suggest that you think about creating a course on a subject you know thoroughly as a way to expand your audience reach. I am a Brainz Magazine Executive Contributor because someone at this magazine noticed my course, How to Teach Online. In this article, I want to share with you four trends that are driving people to the internet to leverage the power of online instruction.
According to Internet World Stats News’ January, 2006 newsletter, internet users worldwide topped one billion for the first time in December 2005. That was about 15 percent of the planet’s population. At the end of 2022, that number had increased to slightly more than five billion people, or 63.5 percent of the world’s population, according to Datareportal. ITU World Telecommunication reports that in 2019, more than 100 million people had taken an online course planet-wide. As online education literally explodes, the way we deliver information will continue to change. People will make money in this new world of online instruction. The question is: Will you be one of them?
The Internet has changed everything about how each of us does business, and the same is true about the ways in which people choose to learn. At the same time, it breaks down old economic systems while creating new ones. To understand why this is happening, let me identify five unfolding trends shaping the online instruction landscape.
1. The Rise of the Adjunct Instructor
In the United States, there has been a trend in the last twenty years to increasingly rely on adjunct, rather than full-time, faculty for the colleges that hire them. I have been a part of this trend, and have made a living doing so since 2004. This trend has been facilitated by the rise of for-profit universities like the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Kaplan University, and others. Changes in the way students can qualify for student loans from the federal government also contributed to this model of using adjuncts to deliver instructional education at the university level. Many Baby Boomers saw this opportunity of having a part-time teaching job as a solution to their financial challenges of making the transition from full-time work to semi-retirement.
2. The Build Out of Broadband Internet Increased the Demand for Online Instruction
The early days of the Internet saw access provided by dial-up modems. Third Generation (3-G) technology was introduced in Japan in 2001, making broadband Internet possible. By 2007, half of all Internet users in America had broadband technology, which made it possible to upload and download documents such as student papers, and electronic textbooks. Schools like the University of Phoenix were leaders in the development of online courses in what came to be called an asynchronous learning environment. With the advent of 4-G internet technology in 2010, the dawn of streaming video had arrived. In 2011, Netflix scrapped its old business model of mailing out DVDs that people rented to introduce streaming movies that people could subscribe to at home. As Netflix and its competitors rolled out this new streaming technology, older video rental businesses like Blockbuster went out of business.
3. The Rise of the MOOC
Just as the cost of video streaming via the Internet fell, he cost of a college education was rising. Thus, more and more universities began to experiment with what has come to be called “Massive Open Online Courses,” or MOOCs. In theory, thousands of students can sign up to take a course that is delivered over the Internet, accessing video lectures and downloadable documents. In this model of online education, subject matter experts create online, non-degree credit courses, that people can access at their own pace to learn about a subject in which they are interested. I refer to this as a “unidirectional” teaching model. There is very little interaction with the course developer. You download the course “as is” and take it at your own speed.
This trend has, in turn, given rise to a new education business model. While there are several companies providing courses based on the MOOC principle – and more entering the market all the time – Udemy.com is perhaps the largest. Lyda is a second such learning platform. These and similar companies invite what I’ll call “education entrepreneurs” to create courses and sell them via these platforms. Typically, there is a revenue-sharing model where the company provides a platform that handles all the “back end” transactions between the course creator and the student learner, splitting the revenue between the two. I have put several of my courses on platforms like these and have nearly 4,000 people worldwide who have signed up for one or more of my courses. To learn about two of them, How to Teach Online and How to Teach With Technology Online, visit my landing page.
4. The Evolution of Learner Certification
While the learning platform will issue a certificate to the student upon completion of a course, there is no certification process that says that a person who has completed such a course has actually achieved a level of competency in the subject. To address this issue, businesses have developed a badging system that people can earn once they have demonstrated a certain level of proficiency. For example, Upwork.com connects freelance contractors with people needing to get short-term projects completed. Clients review a list of potential contractors to see if they have a badge that testifies to their proficiency before hiring them. At some point, we may see such badging systems replace the traditional A-F grading methodology.
5. The Rise of Live Online Instruction
Just as advances in technology have lowered the cost to deliver video streaming of pre-recorded courses, it has also reduced the cost to deliver live online video instruction using such platforms as Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and others. In America, the home school movement has exploded. However, as the children age, parents find it increasingly difficult to teach the subjects their children need to learn. This, in turn, creates a demand for subject matter experts to teach homeschool students in a group setting. Thus, the homeschool movement has evolved to embrace the concept of a co-op, where families bring their children and one person teaches all of them in a given subject, such as math. This has naturally led to the emergence of online homeschool instruction, and the emergence of companies that offer online courses.
In Southeast Asia, examples of new companies that embrace live video-based online instruction are QKIDS and VIPKID. Their model is to provide one-on-one/small group (less than ten) tutoring to students taking courses in synchronous online instruction. Often taught in full emersion English to native-born Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Korean students, these and similar platforms leverage the rise of newer technologies that allow real-time video instruction to tap into the potential of online instruction in that part of the world.
Here in America, given the shutdown of schools because of the Covid 19 virus, many have found themselves abruptly forced into such courses using products like Google Hangouts and Zoom. Schools with large brick-and-mortar costs will struggle, while newer tech-based schools that blend online and face-to-face classwork will increase.
What Does All of This Mean for You?
As the world of online education continues to evolve, it is likely that old education bureaucracies will give way to all sorts of content instruction. Home schools, religiously affiliated schools, and apprenticeship-based expertise badging systems will begin to embrace these and other educational technologies. This, in turn, will lead to a growing demand for qualified online instructors of all disciplines. Key research findings about student learning in the online classroom underscore the importance of having instructors who can manage the technology with which they teach to ensure that students learn.
Change brings opportunity. People will learn more and more online. Will they learn from you, or someone else?
David L Lantz, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
David Lantz is a leader in the field of online instruction. He was awarded a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs in 1981 and served as their Alumni President from 1990-1991. In 2005, he was named Faculty of the Year by the first graduating class of the University of Phoenix’s Indianapolis, Indiana campus. Having taught both face-to-face and online classes since 2003, he received the distinction of Advanced Online Instructor/Facilitator from the University of Phoenix in 2012. Since 2011, he has been creating online courses in the fields of entrepreneurship and online instruction. A self-published author, he has authored both fiction and non-fiction books, which can be found on Amazon.com. His mission can be summarized in the proverb: “The wise man makes knowledge acceptable.” To learn more about David, visit his website at www.wisejargon.com.