What is the Future of Online Teaching & Learning in Higher Education?


a4f871c03554d7d81bed8ab4a1fd06d8In the past, full time employees desirous of pursuing tertiary education had to simply resort to attending classes in the evenings after a hectic work day, or on the weekends. Familial demands and other personal commitments often meant pushing educational advancement to the back-burner. Today, it is much easier and rewarding for individuals to pursue their education not through traditional classroom settings, but through a virtual learning environment.

The University of Edinburgh (2017) define online learning as a way of studying for a locally and internationally recognised qualification without needing to attend classes on campus.  It is aimed at those who wish to study for a postgraduate qualification alongside work or other commitments. Online education is becoming an important long-term strategy for many postsecondary institutions. Given the rapid growth of online education and its importance for postsecondary institutions, it is imperative that institutions of higher education provide quality online programs.


According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, today’s students are now exposed and live in a technological era in which they are engulfed with an array of mobile technological devices and learning OnlineDegreetools that include, Computers, Smartphones and Tablets and E-readers; interactive audio or videoconferencing tools such as Skype, webcasts, instructional videos via CD-ROMs or DVDs and computer-based systems transmitted through the Internet (Aud, Hussar, & Kena, 2011).  Programmes are delivered in courses that you can complete at times convenient to you.  Online programmes deliver programme content and opportunities to interact with other students in a number of ways such as virtual learning environment, e.g. Moodle, Learn or Blackboard Collaborate,  wikis, blogs, discussion boards and forums, video streaming services, e.g. YouTube or Vimeo, virtual worlds, e.g. Second Life just to name a few. 


It is no surprise that educational institutions are now utilising these media to reach a wider audience of individuals who are keen on furthering their education.  Globally, higher education utilises online teaching methods to ensure that a wide array of courses are being taught and accessible to individuals worldwide. In response to these changes in enrolment demands, many institutions, and organisations have been working on strategic plans to implement online education. 

At the same time, misconceptions and myths related to the difficulty of teaching and learning online, technologies available to support online instruction, the support and tablet-mobile-desk-640x533compensation of learning opportunities are available for students in a highly competitive technological arena. Almost if not all institutions of higher education have increasingly embraced online education, and the number of students enrolled in distance education programs is rapidly rising. Colleges and universities now recruit high-quality instructors to develop courses that satisfy the educational demands of individuals worldwide. With the cost of higher education rapidly rising and the challenges experienced by students in funding their education, online distance education has now become an attractive prospect for potential students. The needs of online students create challenges for such vision statements and planning documents.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) mainpic

Massive popular online education platforms such as edX, Udemy, Coursera are MOOC’s widely used by individuals worldwide. Here in the Caribbean, we have the University of the West Indies, Open Campus, the online distance education arm of the UWI alongside the three brick and mortar campuses located at Mona, Jamaica, Cave Hill, Barbados, and St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.   The Open Campus offers undergraduate, postgraduate or continuing and professional education programmes and courses that are accessed by individuals across the Caribbean.  Courses are offered in a blended format consisting of either online or face-to-face lectures which are held at local Open Campus Country sites (OCCS) across the region. 

The University of the West Indies Open Campus -Bahamas                                                                                                      

Technology has played and continues to play an important role in thocbahamas_pice development and expansion of online education.   The development of new technology continues to have an impact on learning. While on the one hand, new technology allows schools and instructors to offer learning in new ways, educators nonetheless continue to face limitations imposed by technology, and sometimes the lack of technology. Rovai (2002) emphasized the four interacting components that provides a sense of community within the online learning environment, which are: connectedness, interdependency, socialization, and common goals. The learning process is strengthened and sustainable when institutions help students feel committed and satisfied with their online practices and when they experience a strong sense of community within the learning environment (Tinto, 1993).  Rovai (2002) also posited that a strong feeling of community and camaraderie among students is crucial, not only to increase diligence in coursework, but also to encourage cooperation and commitment among students and help them to achieve their individual goals as students. For students that have a need to communicate with their peers and instructors, they can schedule chat sessions and online group discussions to participate and respond to questions, assignments, problems, and projects in real time (Barr & Miller, 2013) This will reduce isolation in the online learning environment as this is not the case in the familiar face-to-face format of traditional education.

Online education has emerged in all levels of the school environment; vocational institutions and colleges are incorporating online classes at an increasing rate. With advances in technology, clearly we should use the internet as a supplemental tool but with the level of education necessary for us to compete in the world economy, we must conduct due diligence to determine which classes are to be offered at what level and to whom, in order for online learning to be credible. Our education system needs a drastic overhaul for us to remain competitive in the global market. Online learning offers the convenience of time and space, capability of reaching a greater student population, and draws the attention of a new group of digital learners.  Rovai (2002) proposed that instructors, who embrace supportive methodologies, may help students feel connected through a strong sense of community, leading to a productive and successful online experience.

Online education has made great strides in recent years. For starters, more and more institutions of higher learning have introduced or reinforced their online education platforms, the main considerations being cost reduction for students and recruitment expansion in the face of rising competition. As a result, online education has become an increasingly important part of tertiary education, with colleges and universities using world-famous faculty members and professional support teams to promote online courses.
Is online learning the future for higher education? Will universities continue to have an increase in enrolments for online programmes?
  Online learning is an ever-evolving, ever-changing system (Shea-Schultz, Forgarty, 2002). We should wait and see.



Aud, S., Hussar, W. & Kena, G. (2011). The Condition of Education 2011. Washington, DC:

National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education.

Barr, B.A., & Miller, S.F. (2013). Higher Education: The Online Teaching and Learning

Experience. School of Advanced Studies, University of Phoenix.  Retrieved March 11,

2017 from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED543912
Downes, S. (2008). The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On. Half an Hour. Retrieved

March 14, 2017 from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2008/11/future-of-online-learning-ten-years-on_16.html

Rovai, A.P. (2002). Building sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research

in Open and Distance Learning.  Retrieved from


Shea-Shultz, H., & Fogarty, J. (2002) Online learning today: Strategies that work, San Francisco,

CA: Barrett Koehler. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/152.

The University of Edinburgh (2016, June 30). What is online learning? Retrieved from


Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving College: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. (2nd

Ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago, Press.


What is the Future of Online Teaching & Learning in Higher Education?

14 thoughts on “What is the Future of Online Teaching & Learning in Higher Education?

  1. shanique101 says:

    Whether we like it or not, pretty soon the physical walls of higher education institutes will fall like the walls of Jericho. I read an article on “The Economist” and it spoke about digital degrees and the fact that one can earn certificates online for free. It begs the question “How will higher education institutes survive this storm—and what will emerge in their place if they don’t?”

    Higher Education institutes heads need to give this serious attention because the online enrollment numbers are increasing. I believe that online learning would not suit my study or learning pattern but I am probably an odd person. Most of my friends said they would have done their undergraduate degree online if it was available. One main reason was because of flexibility. I can understand because my current programme is not flexible. Most of the classes in school of education starts 4 or 5pm and the days are fixed. I along with others I assume, struggle to get to class on time. If it was online, then I could access class anywhere in the world once I have internet access. I really think that is a winning factor for online students.

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, online schooling has a plethora of problems including high drop out rate, longer duration and lack of interest among students. So before we leap, let us look.


  2. realchez says:

    Very good blog Pat. I remember when I was living overseas I was working full-time and wanted to further my education. They had correspondence courses which I did at my convenience. I knew I wanted to finish quickly hence I worked hard. They information was mailed to me and I called a toll-free number to say my answers and was given the grade immediately. Saying this to say, we have come a long way but the concept is the same. Persons who can should study at their convenience. As you mentioned Pat, there are so many different ways to not only receive your studies but different ways to present it. Time has changed and we have to change with it.


  3. tanneice says:

    As we contemplate the issue of online education and how technology has changed and continues to change the education landscape (pedagogy), as well as the fact that many universities are adopting and moving in that direction – I want to ask that we consider whether there are barriers to technology adoption and use among faculty in universities that have served to impede, slow down and hinder the progress desired in on-line education.

    Here are a some comments from studies about use of technology and the related barriers that we may find useful as we discuss this issue:

    Ogunsola (2005) stated that without a shadow of doubt, it must be realized that the entire world is going online. There is emerging evidence of the exploration of technology integration in the teaching and learning spaces of Caribbean educational institutions (Singh, 2014). Lai (2011) argues, from all the research that has already been undertaken about the impact of technology on teaching and learning in higher education, one can conclude that higher education institutions have been slow in taking fullest advantage of the potential benefits than can be afford by the use of ICT.

    Similarly, Elders and Schneckenberg (2010) noted that the integration of e-learning in higher education has been disappointing, as the use of technology has not come with any significant pedagogical changes to them (cited in Lai, 2011).

    Rodgers (2000) pointed to teachers’ attitude, perception, competency level with technology as inhibiting factors. Funding, institutional support, technical support, reliability of the technology, accessibility and availability were also listed as factors that impacted adoption and usage of technology by faculty.

    Then another study stated that for integration of technology into education to take place, self-efficacy beliefs toward technology integration have been theorized to be a determining factor in how well a teacher can effectively use technology to improve teaching and learning (Abitt and Klett, 2007).

    Butler and Sellbom (2002) found that the organization and cultural differences will make the implementation of ICT and solutions to barriers different at each institution. Institutions must identify and address the barriers to technology adoption to successfully implement new technologies in teaching and learning.

    Farby and Higgs (1997) recommended that customized training that meets the need of the teachers and that shows the connection between teachers’ style and how technology can enhance classroom instruction is required. Faculty need to realize an advantage or value to using instructional technology, if not, even if the equipment and facilities are available, these will not be used by faculty (Spotts, 1999).

    We may want to look carefully into what may the ‘people’ factors affecting a full and dramatic move to online education for many of our universities, especially here in the Caribbean.


  4. shenzhem says:

    Creating online platforms for higher education, is now becoming the norm for most institutions. As indicated by Pat and Shanique, teaching online can be both positive and negative for higher education.

    Online teaching does facilitate the notion of flexibility which is always an advantage. Pat made mention of working class individuals who dreamt of completing their degree outside of attending school after work. So yes, online teaching does serve its purpose. But can the ideal graduate experience the ultimate university lifestyle through online experience. We debated this issue Trends class a few weeks ago. I am believe that students would not be able to experience everything that higher education offers in the virtual space such as the cultural exchange experience. However, they would be able to complete their degree which is the main priority, therefore online teaching serves its purpose.

    Additionally, this could also mean reduced costs for HEIs in the sense that, they would not need an actual classroom space for students and office space for staff (lecturers) as the course would be done online. Evidently, the cost of electricity, technical support and even the general cleaning of a classroom, would not be factored in. Online also allows the HEI to extend beyond its physical space, prospective students from anywhere across the world are provided with the opportunity to enjoy the UWI’s offerings online if residing in another country.

    I agree with Shanique that sooner or later we may not have a physical space for universities. With the onset of globalization, HEIs would seriously need to plan ahead and address any issues that current students are facing with online teaching, as the future of universities, seems to be heading to an online platform in totality.

    On the other hand, as Shanique stated not everyone can learn from a virtual system, including myself, I prefer face to face classroom settings. However, this does not negate from the fact that universities like the UWI are taking the leap and providing students with an additional option.


    1. patknightletts says:

      Hi Shenzem, i like your comment. Thank you. Regards, Patricia Knight Letts Social Worker Vice President 2015-2016Optimist Club St. Matthews Church, Heroes Circle


  5. Lotoya Bond says:

    Online studying is the way to go for most individuals however; it is a turn of for others. It is convenient and it provides more flexibility for those who are involve. Most persons choose to do online studying because they dont like the hustle and bustle with travelling to and from class, this tend to increase tiredness and frustration.They prefer to stay in the comfort of their home and complete their studies. You have to know your learning style before you make a decision to do online studying. It does not foster interaction with peers and this is a negative for me. I cannot learn effectively from a virtual system.Online studying comes with a very high tuition cost that is very challenging to find in these hard times.In general online studying is good but before making a decision to take this route you have to know your strengths and weaknesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. patknightletts says:

      Thank you very much for your comments. Regards, Patricia Knight Letts Social Worker Vice President 2015-2016Optimist Club St. Matthews Church, Heroes Circle


  6. trevis24 says:

    Online teaching and learning is what the twenty century and beyond will be built on. Fact of the matter is that time is changing and as Pat pointed out we are living in a technological era. Yes, we can use technology to enhance the classroom but we can utilize technology to create multiple classrooms, all linked to one teacher at the same time. Of note, the growth of online teaching and learning is just in response to the act of globalization through the use of technology. Per Mohammed (2015), technology is one of the crucial facilitator of globalization. It is through technology that we see the transfer of information rapidly across borders.

    Given the rate at which time is changing and the global market is evolving, online teaching and learning has its purpose and place in today’s society and if anything will become a necessity in the future. There are programmes necessary to one’s career on which the promise of a promotion is built, programmes which are only offered across border, how else can these programmes be access but through online teaching and learning. My issue with the debate of online teaching and learning is the viewpoint that technology can fail and disrupts a class. Riots can disrupt a class but how often has that happened? How often do we have power outages? In fact, most telecommunications providers are actually now using modems with batteries that act as reverse power supply should the power go. Any institution that suffers from lost of connectivity because of a power cut should ask themselves; are we modernized enough? given that this should not be happening.

    As Shanique highlighted, learning in a virtual space is not for everyone, but for some it is the only option given that they may not be allowed the time off from work to study. In this case online teaching and learning becomes extremely useful to that demographic. Despite the cost associated it provides the flexibility required to complete their studies and upgrade their qualifications as was the case of REALCHEZ; not only did she complete her studies but she was able to keep her job giving her the possibility to fund her studies and take care of herself financially. Online teaching and learning has been lived by many and proved to be a success. Online teaching and learning has a bright future going forward.


  7. While I agree that online learning is an avenue worth exploring, I am sometimes skeptical about whether it is really better than the face to face experience that students may get in the brick and mortar or traditional classroom. I fully acknowledge that online learning allows the learner to avoid the challenges of needing to be in a physical setting to learn. However, I am of the opinion that it also has certain disadvantages. For example, how reliable is online learning when there can be technological set backs such as faulty equipment and poor internet connection. Also, are students digitally literate or technological savvy enough to really grasp the benefits of online learning? I know of quite a few older students who struggle with using online forums to learn and access information.

    I think that online learning should be used to compliment the traditional classroom instead of replacing it. I think that both would create a good balance so that where one method lacks, the other method makes up. A hybrid of some sort, such as the open campuses country sites (OCCS), may be the better way to move forward.


  8. wkeisha says:

    Technology has indeed made it possible for students to access higher education. Choices, other than face-to-face learning, are a welcomed change for persons who are unable to access education because of other obligations or for the sheer fact that the area of interest is not available in their ‘sphere’. I believe that as technology progresses, online learning and distance education will become more embedded in the way universities offer their programmes. However, face-to-face will continue to be the standard delivery mode, interspersed of online elements. I, however, disagree that universities will become completely virtual in the future (do away with brick and mortar), because there will always be students who desire the overall university experience (which is not accessible from a distance).

    As federal, state or governmental funding reduce, internationalization through online course delivery may predominantly be the option used by universities to improve/increase student base (numbers and diversity) and finances. Online learning will continue to be the recurring feature of transformative higher education. After all, it is most cost-effective way for universities to cross borders.

    Despite the benefits to be derived, there are some challenges e.g. access to teacher and student support services, unreliable technology (breakdowns in the system) and the need for experience (internship related programmes for improve employability) that must factor into the equation as technology improves.


    1. patknightletts says:

      Thank you for your comments. Regards, Patricia Knight Letts Social Worker Vice President 2015-2016Optimist Club St. Matthews Church, Heroes Circle


  9. ventomspecial says:

    Good topic Patricia. We are living in a technological advanced world where the world has become a global village – this means, one has everything at his or her finger tips, thus given one the opportunity to work smarter and achieve more. One of these areas we can conveniently work smarter is obtaining a degree online.

    Indeed, it has given persons the opportunity not to be confined to a particular environment or classroom, but provides students the chance to study exactly what they want online.

    Moreover, I believe that it allows individuals to select programmes of their dream in traditional education, too, but that would involve travelling away from home, sometimes living in a completely unknown city, and struggling in an extremely competitive learning environment.

    Additionally, it provides comfort – not worrying about attending classes for hours, because all lectures and needed materials are provided via online platforms. Not to mention self-paced learning where students can start completing the targets at any time, and he can arrange a learning schedule that meets his individual requirements and of course. Also, the cost for online learning is much lower than the traditional.

    For these reasons, I agree with Shanique, that the physical classroom of higher education institutes will soon become history because of jet age we are living in. People do not have time to waste and so they work with what is best for them.


  10. judsbloggy says:

    The greatest revolution in today’s education is the virtual learning environment, for example moodle, wikes and blogs. A God sent for those students who just cannot physically attend to classes. With the high cost of attending an actual university, the online platform opens great opportunity for someone who have limited resources and who wants to learn. These students opt for online courses or degree program because they can learn whatever they want without leaving their home. Comfort is a deciding factor, not sitting in a class for hours, but being in the comfort of your house. All lectures and needed materials are provided online. Studying from home is very opportune. Taking the time to study online and being enthusiastic can give prospective employers the imprint that you are devoted to learning.
     It is self-paced learning.
     You can go to class anytime and anywhere and access coursework (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week.
     You can learn from instructors across the country and even around the world.
    A degree is a degree.
    It is worth the effort.


  11. verinica5 says:

    verinica 5 Veronica writes
    I agree the virtual space of learning is a God sent. The rapid growth in recent time of MOOCS( massive on line courses) speaks to the growing popularity of the virtual space as a popular method of accessing further education. We are now living in an age where professionals are forced to constantly learn to keep abreast of emerging trends in their respective field of endeavours. Lifelong learning in becoming the norm and the virtual space allows for global communication.

    People are now able to earn and work at their own pace and with ease as they no longer have to commute. The average Jamaican student still prefer the face to face classroom contact. However the millennial students who are computer savvy are and will doubtlessly find the virtual classroom more comfortable (Philip 2007;Barnes, Marateo, and Ferris 2007) refers to these millennial learners as the “Net Geners”

    The shift in paradigm from the teacher as a person disseminating information, to that of a facilitator, who actively ensures that the students’ input in the process is encouraged and valued is also conducive to the growth of MOOCS.

    Knowles (1984) addresses how adults learn. Adults wants to know why they are learning the material presented. Adult learners wants guidance and wants to be treated with respect However adult learners still need guidance and help when mistakes are made.This is available through skype and other means on the web.The adult learners is now more empowered as the atmosphere of trust respect and value for what they bring to learning environment as learners ensures they are ready to learn

    A lot of the learners in the virtual space in the market place are now people who are already graduates and want to learn new skills to make themselves more marketable
    It is clear that Technology and the world wide web has now made access to learning more available and convenient .God sent doubtlessly and a growing mode of learning in this global space. .


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