Online Education Trends in 2017

KUPICOO/GETTY IMAGES

KUPICOO/GETTY IMAGES

By Jordan Friedman of US News

Online students: There's a lot in store for you in 2017.

In the past few years, more students enrolled in online courses, more organizations offered alternative credentials such as digital badges and nanodegrees and more employers accepted online degrees from job candidates.

[Learn what employers ask job applicants with online degrees.]

Here are five trends experts say students might see in online education in 2017.

1. Greater emphasis on nontraditional credentials: Companies in recent years have started offering credentials other than degrees to online learners, ranging from digital badges to showcase achievements, to various certificate programs that highlight skills.

In 2017, many experts predict, colleges and universities will become more involved in granting what are often referred to as "micro credentials." 

At universities, "I think there's going to be more focus on how to best serve individuals, whether they are new to education or whether they are returning professionals seeking different credentials or different learning experiences," says Karen Pedersen, chief knowledge officer for the Online Learning Consortium, a group that aims to improve online higher education worldwide.

The massive open online course, or MOOC, provider edX expects to launch more MicroMasters programs in partnership with universities worldwide, for example, a company spokeswoman says. Students complete a portion of a graduate degree through MOOCs and can then apply to finish the full curriculum on campus at a lower total cost.

The U.S. Department of Education is also in the process of reviewing federal financial aid opportunities for low-income students in some non-degree programs such as coding boot camps, through eight partnerships between universities and organizations.

2. Increased use of big data to measure student performance: Because online students complete their coursework virtually, course providers and universities are collecting data "in really kind of remarkable quantities," says Richard DeMillo, executive director of Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for 21st Century Universities, which tracks technology innovations in higher education.  (Read More...)