trends in online education

Five trends in online education

By Morten Flate Paulsen

In Reflections after 25 years with online teaching I wrote about some of the long time trends in online education. In such a long perspective, the following five developments are promising, but immature. One important challenge is how learning providers could develop sustainable business models to maintain these services as an important part of the future learning environment.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open educational resources (OERs) are freely accessible documents and media resources that are useful for teaching, learning, education, assessment and research purposes. These resources are growing in numbers, usefullness and popularity along with international, national and institutional support. UNESCO has for example named several prominent open education institutions as Chairs of OER. Another example is the European POERUP project ( that provides national surveys of available OERs.

Social neetworks and Web2.0 services

Online learners are facing a growing number of social networks and web2.0 services that can be used for flexible and informal learning. The social networks provide access to experts and peers that can be very helpful for advice and learning. The Web2.0 services allow people to share a vast diversity of multimedial learning resources. Some of these opportunities are for example discussed in the article “Transparency in Cooperative Online Education”

Personal learning environments (PLEs)

All the open educational resources, social networks and web2.0 services allow people to set up their personal learning environments (PLEs) according to their interests, learning styles and ambitions. This is both an oppurtunity and a challenge for the individual learner, as well as a challenge for the traditional educational institutions and providers that are used to be in control of the curriculum.

Open Badges

One challenge related to all the available OER and informal learning in the social networks is how this informal learning could be acknowledged and sertified. As a result of this the open badge movement (See for example and which challenge the traditional education institutions “monopoly” in issuing certificates and diplomas.


Moocs are Massive Open Online Courses, and there is a growing number of such courses that could be of interest for adult learners. The design of and participation in a MOOC may be similar to college or university courses, but MOOCs typically do not offer credits awarded to paying students at schools. The open badge initiatives could therefore be of special interest for Moocs. More information on moocs is available on and

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