Online Learning: The Future of Education?

As long as there's been an internet, there have been people using it to educate. From universities putting lecture notes online to virtual tutoring for geographically isolated children, the internet is really proving its value in the field of education. Now organisations such as the award winning Alison project are putting their whole educational process online. So is this the future of education?

Increasing access

Certainly, online education has many benefits, not least accessibility. Anyone with access to an internet connection can now take courses on whatever they want, regardless of educational provision in their area. You don't need to move to a university town to get a university education, or find a local French speaker to be tutored in French.

This also means that more people can access each course. Without the physical limitations of space in classrooms and lecture halls, thousands can listen to a single lecture all at once.

Lowering costs

Providing online courses does incur some technological and programming costs, but the other savings are huge. Buildings and all the associated bills, textbooks and paperwork, travel costs to and from school - there are savings for institutions and learners alike. And as lectures can be recorded and accessed online and copies of documents updated rather than completely replaced, there's potential for big time savings as well.

Increasing choice

I'm not always a fan of where the free market leads us but in this case it seems to be beneficial. People can choose from all the courses available, not just those near them. Obscure subjects like board game design might never be big enough to justify a university department, but the thousands of people around the world wanting to learn them make an online course an option. This generates courses covering anything learners might want.

It also increases options for educators. A tutor working online has the option to live where they want, rather than having to move to a densely populated area, and those with an interest in the education business can run a provider from anywhere in the world.


Of course there are limits to what online courses can do. The lack of physicality makes it hard to cater to kynesthetic learners or to incorporate practical activities such as scientific experiments. But as online courses become more prolific, perhaps ways will be found to hybridise them and incorporate these options.

Regardless, online learning makes the future of education look bright.


Image by mkhmarketing via Flickr creative commons

Andrew Knighton

About Andrew Knighton

I'm a writer and ex-teacher. You can find more of my writing on education at: I also have a blog on reading and writing:

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