The e-learning market is growing apace, thanks to new technologies and trends. Today’s learners and classroom-goers are receiving a different kind of education, with a modern twist added to it. But given these new technologies, providing more self-paced, on-demand e-learning options, it’s no wonder that these haven’t been around to the general public as long as one might think. Even as a millennial, I wasn’t in school recently enough to really be affected by a digital classroom setting wherein students are fully immersed in an online learning sanctum.

Within the last decade, I attended college at a reputable state university, equipped with all the tech-savvy bells and whistles you would expect. As a major in journalism, most of my core classes were focused on media—namely, digital. These “core” classes were all physical, classroom-based models where students had to show up or risk letter grade deductions. If I recall, you could miss up to three classes and maybe one sick day per semester in most cases. Some professors would even fail you if you missed too many class sessions. It was when I broke my hand during a spring semester, my writing hand, where I had to make a decision on whether or not to drop a class since there were no online alternatives available, or apply for disability assistance where I would have a “note-taker” assigned to me.

The e-learning trend is being driven by numerous factors, among which are students who are unable to attend physical classroom settings. By 2020, the smart education and learning market is expected to be worth $446.85 billion. Educators have been taking advantage of video chats and live streaming technologies since its inception, but only recently have these video capabilities started to be truly embraced by a growing number of institutions. With the announcement of 4K streaming, high definition interaction is now a reality between students and teachers. Combining better video technologies with a growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture, and you’ve got a population of current students capable of attending classes from their phones, tablets or other mobile devices. The question remains: are these tools being fully taken advantage of, or left undiscovered?

Thankfully for those who came after me, the school has since bulked-up its offerings for online classes, allowing for student-teacher video chat capabilities, pre-recorded video lectures, or just taking the full class curriculum digitally through Blackboard.com. Blackboard is just one of the many platforms currently being used as a base for e-learning models. Now, with the addition of video to these platforms, more students are being given the opportunities to receive the education they require. This digital renaissance within the education sector has led to blended learning programs like Rocketship Education, a network of charter schools in San Jose, Calif., that utilizes a blended learning model with adaptive software to increase student engagement and achievement.

Blended learning was quoted as being, “one of the central features of modern school reform, with proponents proclaiming that it helps personalize education, cuts costs and allows students to be more productive.” Blended classrooms have existed in Canada since the late-1990s, and yet Americans have only just started to harness the full potential of these learning tools within the last decade. With the rise in online video platforms and content delivery networks, e-learning is gaining serious momentum in this tech-driven world.

Among some of the leaders in the digital education era is Ruben Daniel Ugarte, co-founder of Edukaans and a top e-learning author. With his Vancouver-based company, he helps organizations to deliver and sell educational video content online. Ugarte challenged the very business of education at the time while toying with video concepts in 2010, wondering whether or not he could combine experts and students through some kind of central technology. Now, Edukaans is a premier video production agency specializing in educational videos for clients, whether it’s for corporate training or the ladder, more classroom-specific.

Video is essential in the continuous evolution of our educational faculties. Take Howard Gardner, renowned psychologist at Harvard University, for example. He related with multimedia in education when he identified his seven distinct intelligences. In his findings, he drew a connection with visual-spatial learners, referring to them as being very aware of their environment and affluent in media- and video-based tools. To say that this next generation of students, Generation Z, will be comprised mostly of visual-spatial learners isn’t too farfetched, but it’s difficult to say how digital- & physical-based classrooms will coordinate with one another in the future. In regards to video in education, I think Ugarte summed it up: “We definitely see a very positive feel in the whole online video world.”

(Originally published via LinkedIn Pulse on August 5, 2015)

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Max Greenwood is the managing director of social media for Tivi: Truly Interactive Video, a radical new online video platform incorporating interactivity into live and on-demand video content.

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