online learning1

The advent of the internet and the increasing use of technology in the classroom is changing the way we learn. Teachers have never before had such a vast array of teaching methods available to them and students have a wealth of information easily available.

Yet, the method of accreditation remains largely unchanged. Students are learning in a 21st century context of collaboration and cooperation but are still largely examined by a 20th century means of question and – often rehearsed and regurgitated – answer.


Online learning is one of the 10 trends discussed in our 2014-15 Trends Report.

Download the full 2014-15 trends report here: 10 trends that are changing our world (PDF)


While the world has moved on, the education system has not, meaning most students are not being adequately prepared for life after school in the 21st century.

Instead we seem to be stuck in a quagmire of 20th century thinking, sending the message to students that says the surest way to a successful future is to: “go to school, study hard, get good grades, go to university and then you’ll get a good job”.

This worked for students in the industrialised 20th century, but with the world rapidly advancing in technology and thinking, it just doesn’t cut it in today’s new world. With an increasing number of university graduates finding that their university qualification does not necessarily qualify them for entry into the workplace, it is time these questions were asked:

  • Is the knowledge upon which students are measured really relevant in today’s workplaces?
  • Do diplomas and degrees accurately reflect the acquisition of skills that are necessary in the 21st Century labour market?

Today’s educational structure and education institutions were created in an age of information scarcity. As Belgian author and authority on learning processes and innovative organisations, Jef Staes has written: “Knowledge was the privilege of insiders, the rich, the smart, and the powerful. This knowledge reinforced their status within society and within this structure.”16

As the internet has been a democratising force on so many other industries, so it is now to education. We have moved from an era of information scarcity to an era of information abundance and the traditional foundations of education institutions are, as Staes notes, “slowly crumbling.”

With information now in abundance and increasingly freely available, we may well see a decline in the perceived value of a traditional university degree.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), starting with The Khan Academy and followed by websites such as, and are reinventing the delivery of education, posing a very real threat to the business model of traditional universities. 

The demand for short online courses is certainly there. In September 2012 Melbourne University announced it would be offering nine subjects online via Coursera. Within one month more than 40,000 people had enrolled in these free courses online – more than the entire number of students already enrolled at the University.

In contest is the ideological idea of making education freely available to the masses, as against the preserve of tradition, reputation and cachet of the established learning institutions.

Of course there are many subjects – Medicine, Engineering, The Sciences – which require a significant practical component and these will be delivered in person, on premises. However, there are many subjects – Law, Economics, Politics and History – that can, and will likely enjoy a significant online delivery component.

We’re following this trend closely. What is likely to play out is a blended learning experience where university instructors choose the best of the online resources for students to watch before coming to class, allowing class time to be spent diving deeper into the subject matter. Either way, students stand to benefit from a richer education experience.


Online learning is one of the 10 trends discussed in our 2014-15 Trends Report.

Download the full 2014-15 trends report here: 10 trends that are changing our world (PDF)