When Did Online Learning Become Popular

Students on average make progress in online learning courses 12 weeks slower than in face-to-face class.

It was first here, so it had to be there.

Thus begins a time-honored story of history. In the earliest days of the internet, consumers could find specific material anywhere they happened to be online. One such place was the old internet exchange, or the “dark room” for some, at the top of Google’s search rankings for specific words. One search word that still was pretty popular across a broad audience was “e-learning.” But a multitude of extensions to the word eventually started popping up on Google, and the search term soon became unfashionable.

Popular learning at the dawn of the network and online world typically are the additions to the mix that on most occasions fail to live up to their promise and become ultimately ignored by the whole. But during the digital era, it seems many higher ed, career and academic learning sites have responded to the rising popularity of “e-learning” by creating their own, and by doing it in a truly collaborative manner.

For many individuals, “e-learning” often means the green-lit videos you can find on platforms like edX, Coursera, Lynda.com and Coursera.org, where you can take a range of online courses and appear on your very own video vlog to support your learning. But often, “e-learning” has been put into consumer language, namely as “online learning” — which has become a shorthand for any collaboration that encourages both groups to share and learn together. It’s usually when you go online to collaborate with your fellow learners that the term “e-learning” gets put in the forefront, so that if you haven’t already, you’re poised to encounter it.

And the experiences of online learning sites like Udemy and Coursera are appropriate examples: Udemy was one of the first to throw its weight behind “e-learning” by creating a dedicated platform for more than a dozen (frequently open source) classes that range from video courses to tutorials to product reviews to courses about Botanical Q&A. Udemy has now launched nearly 100 new courses alone and offers content in various topics, and while it doesn’t offer anything on the scale of open college courses offered by schools like Harvard and Princeton, it is one of the more modern large-scale ventures that offers open online courses in areas of interest, from nursing to skills programs and more.

Coursera, a platform that hosts more than 175 courses, nearly all open to all its more than two million monthly registered users, is another company that jumped on the “e-learning” bandwagon in 2017, and since then has experienced it all: The site has driven significant growth in both the number of downloads and its student base, but as noted by this year’s round of funding, “timing has not been kind.” Like many types of online learning, Coursera’s popularity has historically been focused on its excellence and high quality content, and as such, that contributed to its growth and satisfaction in its first-year and much of 2018, but growth stalled in the past few months. Just as the world saw Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” and “Frozen” as pre-Newtonian space, teaching and learning has long been a pre-Big Data field, so too have online learning resources never been shown to perform particularly well without a set of fundamental strengths and shortcomings in their data.

A third player in the e-learning space is a company called Vedspark (and yes, that is the modernized Sanskrit name of Vedatain), and like many companies, the platform offers and integrates courses in an open, collaborative manner. Almost all of Vedspark’s courses are essentially “Netflix-for-learning” (use the term “e-learning” loosely for online courses), but their online options also now include partnership and internship courses. The model of a “learn-to-work” path popularized by Opportunity Nation has recently become a trend for many e-learning sites. As it is sometimes an advantage to incorporate entrepreneurship in any course, Vedspark recently brought out a partnership with Grow, an organization that provides educational services to aspiring entrepreneurs, as well as showcasing Fellowships offered through their In-Engaged program.

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