CORE 10 Trends: Virtual Learning

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights” (UNESCO, Education)

Something exciting is happening in the world of learning. Experiences that were restricted to a timeslot on a timetable, to four walls of a classroom or lecture hall, or simply too expensive to achieve, can now happen more easily, more regularly, and more flexibly. It won’t have escaped your notice that the world of virtual learning is on the rise. Like all paradigm shifts, it brings challenges and steep curves, but the learning opportunities for us all, even for whole geographical areas previously cut off from such opportunities, should make us all sit up, take notice and start planning.

What is virtual learning?

If you are accessing learning experiences, courses, resources and activities, asynchronously or in real-time, using online technologies, then you are learning virtually. It ranges from formalized, academic online courses for qualifications, to informal education for your own interest. Increasingly, the lines are blurring between formal and informal, academic courses and open resources. Here’s a glimpse of the global picture:

…while, here in New Zealand and Australia, we have:

What is clear is that virtual learning now provides access to education for many who, in the past, would have been too isolated, too deprived, or too disenfranchised to benefit.

What’s driving the rise in virtual learning?

There are several, largely technological, drivers behind the rise of virtual learning:

  • the access to ‘web 2.0’, easily-manipulated, user-driven software, that allows anyone to create, share, create and consume content;
  • increased access to online technologies through cheaper tools, such as mobile phones
  • wider access to broadband, and improved connectivity

In addition, the economic downturn, and an increasing demand for personalised, flexible experiences, are also credited as spurring on the demand for virtual learning.

So, what’s the impact?

Schools and colleges are embracing the educational benefits of having shared, online learning environments:

And, increasingly, motivated learners are seizing the opportunities offered by social media to build personal learning networks, share different perspectives, and open the doors to their classrooms.

What should I be thinking about?

With increased flexibility, demand for personalised learning, and improved access, we might now ask ourselves how we can:

  • blend online and face-to-face learning activities so our learners can personalise their own pathways?
  • be knowledge creators but also knowledge curators, aggregating and leveraging existing digital resources?
  • develop what we know about online education so we can design effective learning?

Dig deeper?

What are your views?


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Karen Spencer

Karen Spencer is Senior Advisor: Transformation at CORE Education. An inspiring facilitator with an international reputation, she brings energy and rigour to a rich range of programmes, exploring ways to reimagine the design of effective, inclusive learning for educators and ākonga. Karen runs her own thought-provoking blog.

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  1. vivian.mcdermott@hotmail.com'
    Vivian McDermott says:

    Very thought provoking. In relation to toddlers and other under 5's in care, there is a huge opportunity to support them through the dilemma of seperation anxiety. As a grandmother and educator I am very grateful we have this connection ,which is so much more sensitive for children who simply find it so traumatic to seperate.
    Vivian McDermott.

  2. Online professional learning: Punch above your weight | at the virtual chalkface says:

    […] here’s me giving an overview of this trend, created for the 10 trends […]

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