Beyond the normal anxieties associated with enrolling in continuing education programs, many adults are concerned about future trends in education. Their apprehension is focused on how technological tools will impact the way education is delivered. To expand on this, their unease is centered on the way online tools are used to make it easier to earn a college degree or complete professional training.
To this end, the future trends in continuing education are changing to meet the 21st Century adult learner by offering increased e-learning or online learning opportunities. This trend is designed to support both a global and mobile society in the following ways.
Mobile Learning: Reliance on Portable Digital Devices
This trend of increased mobile learning is based on the transformation of society to include the use of mobile tools on a large scale. These tools include wireless smart phones, iPods, lap top computers, Tablet PCs, iPads, personal digital assistants, and other personal media players.
The wireless connectivity of these online tools is moving towards more e-learning as the way college courses are taught and professional training is delivered to integrate more web-based technology. This trend has led to several advantages for adult learners and includes:
- reduced time spent on learning and increased retention
- on-demand availability of college courses or professional training
- self-paced learning, a real benefit for faster or slower learners
- increased interactivity for students with instructors
- increased confidence for adult learners
- the ability to accommodate a varied learning styles such as auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners
- the ability to teach or learn from anywhere in the world
Mobile learning is becoming one of the fastest growing trends in continuing education.
Learning Networks: Reliance on Professional Social Networks
The increased trend of adults enrolling in online professional networks is transforming aspects of continuing education. This change is being driven by advances in Web 2.0 technology as adults become more tech savvy and increase their use of free online tools to support their learning.
This trend in online professional networks support e-learning for adults who:
- want to learn new things from experts and colleagues, along with keeping current with the latest trends and processes in their career field.
- know there are many paths to learning or finding out the latest information, instead of the traditional methods of formal learning.
- rely on a broad set of online information and communications tools to keep current.
A professional learning network also offers the ability to create a presence in a career field outside an adult’s current employer. This offers the advantage of continuing their education, along with being known as an expert in their field.
Do-It-Yourself Learning: Access to Experts Without Formal Learning
For the do-it-yourself learner, e-learning is achieved through informal personal learning networks. This education trend is primarily due to the immediacy to learn new information, without the time or financial resources to access formal learning. To this end, college courses and professional training programs are no longer the main funnel for knowledge.
This trend of do-it-yourself learning offers several advantages and is based on the fact information is:
- available in any format, anytime, and anywhere on the Internet.
- customizable to meet the needs of most adult learners.
- often interactive for adult learners whose learning style is best suited for this time of learning.
- user created content, allowing learners to access the latest facts created by experts.
- available through open content resources.
These e-learning networks offer opportunities for adults to improve their professional career and personal live using an informal network of colleagues, professionals, and friends.
E-Learning: Advantages of this Trend
The advantage of e-learning or online learning includes offering individualized instruction, which traditional formal education finds difficult to provide. E-learning can also target specific needs and individual learning preferences. This trend offers advantages for adult learners by:
- recognizing the demand for quality education when adults invest in time to learn.
- the ability to enroll in courses from anywhere someone has Internet connectivity.
- enrolling in webinars, web-based courses, or instructor led courses.
- providing ready access to records of program completion for college work or continuing education units.
These future trends are a call to action for adult learners everywhere. Mobile learning, professional learning networks, do-it-yourself learning, and E-learning are transforming the way adults learn. Continuing education is adapting to their needs and they need to take advantage of these educational opportunities to expand their professional knowledge and personal lifelong learning ventures.