Trending EducationFour months into 2014 and new trends continue to impact online education. While some of these trends are rollovers from the previous year, their ripples are still being felt, and some experts predict this may continue for years to come. Overcoming obstacles may prove challenging for some online education institutions, but by staying aware of them, you may be able to come out on top.

One of the top trends effecting online education is the continued reduction in the unemployment rate. As more jobs are added to the market, less people are devoting time to their education, as getting back to work becomes their priority. In the last few years, college enrollment has decreased and demographers are predicting this trend to continue in the future.

One of two effects the reduction in unemployment has on education is the larger number of people leaving the workforce.  This directly reduces the population of people who would be interested in or would need to participate in education.  And for those returning to work, many are taking jobs below their skill level and pay grade. This will have them looking for new training and educational opportunities as they look for ways to improve their job situation. This is especially positive for online education, which allows for learning flexibility.

Another trend plaguing the higher education system is increased tuition paired with a lack of financial aid. While many people are getting back to work after bouts of unemployment, the economy continues to wreak havoc on many family’s bank accounts. For the majority of American families, the price of college is still too high. Financial aid is available for some, but not for all, and the aid being offered still doesn’t cover enough of the costs. If the disparity between tuition and aid continues, many students’ dreams of college may be put on hold.

“One of two effects the reduction in unemployment has on education is the larger number of people leaving the workforce.”

The news isn’t all doom and gloom for higher education, especially online higher education.  With many more people lacking college degrees or any type of higher education training, there will be more opportunities to reach them via online learning. In fact, some statistics predict there will be over 100 million people lacking some type of college education by 2020. This offers a significant market for online higher education.

To capture this market, higher education online institutions may need to increase their degree programs. According to a recent survey of The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and The Council of Independent Colleges, there is a serious lack of online programs being offered in fields like psychology, education, liberal arts and computer sciences. The lack of offerings, especially in the computer science field, one of the most popularly requested degree programs by online students, poses as missed opportunities for many online learning programs.

With all these trends effecting higher education online learning, the challenges can seem daunting. However, if you choose to look at these trends as opportunities instead, your institution just might come out ahead of the curve. Remember, innovation always comes out of the hard times, when challenges seem insurmountable. By offering more degree programs, at more affordable pricing, your online institution can reach the most students, in the most effective way possible.


Author Rick J. Stern

Entrepreneur Rick Stern built Xenegrade Corp with a focus on service to educational organizations. With an MBA from Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester and over 20 years continuing education management, his experience provides valuable insight into the needs, demands, and trends of the continuing education market.

More posts by Rick J. Stern

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