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As distance education grows and becomes increasingly accessible for more students, these trends indicate the path of distance learning in the future of education.


  1. "The current higher education infrastructure cannot accommodate the growing college-aged population enrollments, making more distance education programs necessary." Based on current high school enrollment, the National Center for Educational Statistics predicts that college enrollment will increase 16% in the next 10 years. Since this does not include other adults outside of the conventional college age, the need for distance education (especially for working adults) is going to continue to grow.
  2. "Students are shopping for courses that meet their schedules and circumstances." As internet courses become easier to use and easier to transfer credit, students no longer feel tied to their own institution for online classes. It is common for distance education classes to be taken from a separate university, based on the learners needs and preferences.
  3. "Higher-education learner profiles, including online, information-age, and adult learners, are changing. They are generally older, have completed more college  credit hours and more degree programs, and have a higher all-college GPA that their traditional counterparts."
  4. "The percentage of adult, female, and minority learners is increasing." In the last 60 years, as more women and minority people entered the workforce, college enrollment increased also. Unsurprisingly, these working adults are now also utilizing distance education.


  1. "Traditional faculty roles are shifting. ...Distance education instructors must plan ahead, be highly organized, and communicate with learners in new ways. They need to be accessible to students [and] work in teams when appropriate. Distance faculty members must be experts in maintaining communication, because there is increased demand for student interaction in distance learning. Finally, they may have to assume more administrative responsibilities than is true in a residential model."
  2. "The need for faculty development, support, and training is growing." Faculty teaching a distance education course struggle to use their conventional teaching methods, often with poor results. In order for Information Technology departments to better equip faculty for this different role, “helping [them] integrate technology into their instruction is the single most important IT issue confronting their campuses over the next two or three years."
  3. "Faculty tenure is being challenged, allowing for more non-traditional faculty roles in distance education." Faculty tenure is a decreasing priority in the face of the demands of twenty-first century education. Additionally, contributions to distance education do not contribute towards tenure. Some universities are considering "dissolving" tenure (and it's requirements) in order to encourage more faculty to pursue distance education.
  4. "Faculty members demand reduced workload and increased compensation for distance courses." As faculty are less and less able to use their previous lessons and lectures in a distance learning environment, these courses require much more time and effort. Thus, distance education is going to have to become more "worth it" for faculty to continue or begin to participate.


  1.  "Knowledge and information are growing exponentially." The modern age is referred to as the information age, and rightly so. “In the past, information doubled every 10 years; now it doubles every four years." Education, and distance education with it, will be stretched farther as information and expectation of graduates increases.
  2. "The institutional landscape of higher education is changing: traditional campuses are declining, for-profit institutions are growing, and public and private institutions are merging."
  3. "There is a shift in organizational structure towards decentralization."
  4. "Instruction is becoming more learner-centered, non-linear, and self-directed. ...In the past, most instructors followed a 'transmission' or lecture-style approach to teaching, more instructional diversity is occurring among teachers who are trying a larger variety of approaches" in order to effectively teach and equip their students.
  5. "Academic emphasis is shifting from course-completion to competency." As employers become more focused on experience and performance above diplomas, courses push for more demonstration of skills above passing tests and moving on.
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