The Future of Online Learning


Online learning is in its infancy. As pioneers struggle with new technologies and new practises, the discipline evolves almost daily. An online course that was considered state of the art twelve months ago is today considered to be out of date. Technology employed only by early adopters last fall is this summer in wide circulation and in danger of becoming obsolete by the fall semester.

Yet despite the rapid change, trends may be identified, trends which point to the future of online learning. What will be is not as radically different from current models as may be conceived, however, some significant shifts in the nature of online learning, and learning in general, may be identified.

This Essay does not attempt to describe what ought to be, but rather, what will happen. Although I am a deep supporter of online learning for many reasons, I have chosen instead to focus on prediction rather than prescription.

The reason for this is that, if we are aware of where the field will take us, we are more able to shape the manner in which we will travel and the environment in which we will reside. Knowing the future helps us to a significant degree become shapers of the future.

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.