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Online Learning in 2020—A Year in Review

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2020 is an unforgettable year for everyone. With COVID-19 catching the entire globe off guard, some industries benefited from the situation less than others, and some adapted more quickly than most.

This year, e-Learning took a massive leap onto center stage, experiencing skyrocketing growth that is unprecedented from its previous trajectory. From preschools to cybersecurity certifications, digital industry giants like Microsoft and Google to traditional brick and mortar education institutions, each learning platform had to figure out its own way of accommodating and thriving in a new wave of disruption that caught the world

We took some time to gather the highlights, the news, and the updates that were instrumental in the exceptional success of e-Learning this year.

The Digital Divide—tackling issues of equity with educational technology

The digital divide is a social problem that refers to the disparity in information available among people who readily have access to the internet and those who do not. Due to this divide, individuals from low-income households are held back from communicating and accessing online resources.

This has been a massive issue ever since schools closed down and have transitioned their learning distribution via online classes. In fact, around 24 million Americans lack access to reliable internet coverage. This divide is especially apparent among racial and ethnic groups, further increasing the gap minorities encounter in terms of learning and career opportunities.

Majority of the efforts to mitigate this problem have been centered on localities. Some of which include:

  • Texas House Bill which provides the state with an additional $6.5 billion in public education funding.
  • Establishing wireless access points for cities in Connecticut.
  • California districts issuing laptops, routers, and SIM cards for students.

The effectivity of online learning in question

​​​​​​​Due to the plethora of online learning courses and degrees that have become available overnight and have trended within the year, tremendous scrutiny has been set on the efficacy of digital learning. Universities and colleges, for example, have distinguished themselves from online degrees through iMBAs and e-Masters.

However, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda anticipates stronger partnerships to be formed between traditional universities and online learning platforms as students seek greater accessibility for top tier education that makes way for job readiness.

On the other hand, schools adapting to online learning have received the same level of careful inspection. One significant downside to digital education is the struggle educators face to keep learner interaction consistent, ensuring that students do not feel disconnected from the class when they’re behind the computer screens all day.

In order to combat this, teachers are placing greater emphasis on student engagement. Education leaders have begun advocating and implementing smaller classes, one-on-one homework sessions, peer collaboration, and interaction through the visual medium.

Upskilling and reskilling initiatives are underway to answer for skills gap

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Unemployment is at its all-time high, doubling within the year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. reports 10.7 million individuals as unemployed as of November 2020, compared to last year’s 5.8 million. At the same time, new jobs are opening up. However, finding qualified individuals has been challenging for many employers due to the disconnect between the skills companies are currently looking for and the skill sets actually possessed by job-seekers.

In line with this, 84% of businesses are looking to accelerate the automation of their work processes while 42% are looking to expedite the digitalization of their education technology providers for upskilling and re-skilling according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2020 report.

Top companies already have their own efforts for upskilling their workforces, such as Microsoft’s Future Ready campaign, SAP’s digital literacy programs, and Google’s certifications.

Google Certificates to compete with 4-year college degrees

Google started a new certificate program called Google Career Certificates, an initiative that they partnered on with the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation (SHRM) and multiple established corporations. Proclaimed to be on-par with 4-year undergraduate degrees, the program aims to combat opportunity inequalities and skills gaps in the workforce industry, according to SHRM.

Among the participating organizations are: Walmart, Hulu, Intel, Bank of America, and Google itself. The tech giant is also planning to launch an apprenticeship program for people who complete the course, as well as scholarship openings for low-income professionals.

Google plans to expand their current roster of course offerings to include classes designed for careers in:

  • Data Analysis
  • Project Management
  • UX Design

This project is Google’s answer to the pressing need for more highly-skilled talents in the workforce through skills-based education that prepares and empowers students for employment.

These are just some of the recent and most significant reports on online education in 2020. The industry is expected to grow even further in the year to come. For more of the latest insights on e-Learning, head on over to our website for education marketing facts, articles, and guides.

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