The past year has been transformational for the edtech industry. Initially, traditional educational institutions were forced to take their classes online, but many are now choosing to make virtual learning a permanent offering once we fully emerge from the pandemic. One third of Russell Group universities say they intend to continue with blended learning, while the University of Buckingham’s Education MA, for example, at is now fully online.
And it’s not only institutions turning to online learning, individuals are too. Polling commissioned by online social learning provider Learning with Experts showed that over half of Brits have started or intend to start an online course during the pandemic.
There are so many wonderful benefits to virtual education that one can attribute to this widespread enthusiasm; the added flexibility gives students the autonomy to fit classes into their schedule and learn at their own pace. Online courses can also generate more global, inclusive classrooms with people able to join from anywhere in the world and at any stage of life.
All of these benefits are worth celebrating, but the industry is yet to realise its full potential.
Worrying student retention
Without a classroom environment amongst peers that motivate each other, it’s very easy for online learners to lose excitement about their courses and to forget the passion for the subject that brought them there in the first place. We see this with MOOCs which have an average completion rate of just 20%. This statistic is especially disappointing when you realise that each student who doesn’t finish one course is unlikely to start another.
So how do we turn this tide? Edtech can add a touch of magic to the learning process, harnessing the benefits of in-person teaching with the unique possibilities presented by tech innovation. In doing so, it can keep students engaged and motivated.
Here, online learning can look to an unlikely source of inspiration: Fortnite.
Immersive user experience
Fortnite waded into a very crowded field of online gaming, yet was able to build up a cult following of players who returned to the game time and time again. It completely disrupted the field and changed expectations of what an online game could be.
The key to its success lies in the creation of an immersive and social experience for players. Beautiful graphics transport users to a new world while the online multiplayer capabilities ground the game in human interaction. These are qualities that are so often lacking in online courses, but which are crucial to harnessing their full potential.
“The key to its success lies in the creation of an immersive and social experience for players. Beautiful graphics transport users to a new world while the online multiplayer capabilities ground the game in human interaction”
We need to remember that courses are ultimately for students and ensure them an optimal user experience. This means an immersive experience with clean, intuitive software, high-quality videos and engaging graphics.
Learning in tribes
Most important is the need for online courses to acknowledge that humans are social beings. From family and friends to the workplace, we exist in tribes which means that we are motivated and inspired by the people around us – we are not supposed to learn alone. With more people now working from home and isolated from their usual social networks, online courses need to fill that gap by facilitating collaboration and classroom interaction.
“From family and friends to the workplace, we exist in tribes which means that we are motivated and inspired by the people around us – we are not supposed to learn alone”
Fortnite’s success disproved the common misconception that gamers are loners who prefer to play alone in their basements. The game tapped into people’s natural desire for friendly competition, to engage with others and collaborate. It has created its own tribe: millions of players with a shared enthusiasm who will religiously subscribe to any new updates.
This level of enthusiasm is not out of reach for online learners. In fact, online learning has the potential to inspire an even broader range of people; 62.7% of Fortnite players are aged between 18 and 24 but the demographic of online learners swings older and female.
By providing a similarly immersive and social experience, online courses can build up their own cult following of students who bond over and learn from their shared passion.
Fortnite got 350 million players hooked on gaming – just think how many people we could get hooked on learning.
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