7 higher education trends for 2013

In the higher education sector, 2012 will perhaps be remembered most for the explosion of the MOOC. This model has brought new attention to online education, and has helped underscore the need to make education more accessible and self-directed.

However, this development is just one of several trends we see having a major impact on the way we teach and learn as we head into 2013. For instance, other milestones that we highlighted in our Evolution of Distance Learning in Higher Education infographic in November will be built upon in new ways in the coming year. In particular, we see educational institutions sharpening their focus on online education, better meeting adult learner needs, and increasingly supporting lifelong learning.


LOOKING AHEAD: We’ll be entering 2013 with new momentum around the way we teach and learn

With this in mind, here are seven trends to watch in the higher education industry in 2013.

  1. Online education innovation will accelerate.Sixty-five percent of higher education institutions say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy, according to a survey by Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board. 2013 will see these strategies further play out. Such strategies will feature several key benefits for students — namely, robust support services, high interaction with instructors and students, and outcomes-based learning. Much of this innovation will continue to be led by smaller institutions, for-profits, and community colleges, which have spearheaded many online education developments to date. For instance, Post University offered its first online education course in 1997, when commercialization of the Internet was just beginning. However, innovation will spread to other institutions in the new year as well.
  2. The adult learner population will continue to grow.We’re seeing more working adults go back to school to advance their careers and continue their lifelong learning journeys. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 statistics show that approximately 25 percent of college students nationwide are over age 30. As a result, adult learners will continue to become a crucial part of the overall future of higher education in 2013. Educational institutions will be under increasing pressure next year to better meet the needs of adult learners, who must balance work, school, and life’s other responsibilities. Online education will also play a vital role in this regard, as it continues to become the ideal educational model for adult learners.
  3. The traditional education narrative will continue to shift.This year has seen a significant shift in how learners get information and acquire knowledge, and it will continue into 2013. Steve Hargadon emphasized this educational shift in his keynote at our Online Learning Conference in April. He discussed how online information is no longer primarily handed down from professor to student. In many cases, it is downloaded and uploaded by students. In 2013, the learner will have even greater voice and expect to be a more active participant in the learning process. This will help allow more learning to take place anywhere, anytime in 2013.
  4. More educators will help students learn how to learn.The trend described above is leading to another notable development, and which Hargadon also covered in his keynote: Increasingly, the role of educators is to help students learn how to learn. As we head into 2013, educators will continue to provide the structure, guidance, and support needed to enable students to become more productive, innovative learners. This requires curricula that reward flexible and fluent thinking, and use authentic, real-world-application measures of assessment. More students will be creating and producing materials so they’re not just demonstrating that they know information, but rather, can find and use information and put it together in new ways to share it with others.
  5. Students will increasingly become self-directed learners. This is another important outcome of the shift in the education narrative that Hargadon discussed. Rather than students acting as compliant learners — adhering to institutions’ rules about what and how to learn — they are becoming creative agents in their own learning. New online teaching and learning technologies will help make this self-directed learning even more possible in 2013. As a result, we’ll see a more pronounced deinstitutionalization of education, whereby students seek stronger connections between what they’re learning and how it relates to their lives and career aspirations.
  6. Social media will increasingly become a powerful teaching and learning tool.Many educators have adopted social media in the classroom, and are finding ways to use social media to help students tap into their creative potential and build their personal learning networks. 2013 will see further development in this arena, as more educators use social media to engage students in broader conversations about what they’re learning in class. Educators will be further looking for ways to strategically integrate social media into their instructional design models in 2013.
  7. Educational partnerships will help fuel industry innovation. Educational partnerships are an important part of the mission to improve and implement traditional, online, and hybrid learning models that are driven by student needs. This was another important topic discussed during our Online Learning Conference 2012. The industry will see more educational partnerships and alliances forming in 2013, whereby individual organizations hone their expertise in particular areas while tapping other resources to create products and services that best meet student needs and strengthen America’s global leadership position.

We are at the front lines of major changes in education, driven by student needs, as well as the implementation and optimization of new technologies, principles, and philosophies. It’s challenging, exhilarating, and inspiring, and all educators should be identifying how they can take advantage of these developments to produce better student outcomes in 2013. How do you see education shaping up in 2013?

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