Upside #1: Cost savings.
The Downside: A less wholesome experience
To think an online solution cuts costs to a fraction while keeping all else equal is naive. But to disregard the quality time lost by the lack of face-to-face interactions is dangerous. To be in the presence of teachers and classmates on lively conversation, answer questions immediately, to enjoy being observed by a tutor, will likely be valuable educational experiences even in the age of space colonies.
Solution: Better leverage of engagement tools
Digital can make learning less costly, and more affordable in turn. But there is no savings in the world that replaces attentive listening and care to a process. Moodle offers an array of lifecycle activities and plugins, to appeal from honest, challenging student input; to keep track of their performance quantitatively and qualitatively.
Upside #2: Speed.
The Downside: Lower propensity to long-term retention
Most “flash” or “crash-courses” held online can be browsed through swiftly in order to complete the final quiz and earn a certificate. It becomes only a matter of time before people associate the institution that issues such easily earned certificates with educational disinterest and low skill quality of certificate recipients.
Solution: Continuous, multi-stage interventions
Digital is not about cutting corners, but promoting flexibility and autonomy. Aspects that tend to be systematically overlooked in more traditional educational settings. If traditional learning requires covering lots of content within a confined space and time, digital can change the game by promoting shorter, more continuous and even lifelong interactions with students.
Upside #3: Increased profits.
The Downside: More competitive environment
The explosion of free MOOCs and learning platforms, Moodle included, served as an opportunity for education professionals and institutions to showcase their learning know-how, often in the hopes of a long-term branding or recruitment strategy. This decimated the chances of entrepreneurs looking to create a sustainable business out of educational content.
Solution: Innovation management
Which is not to say digital learning is not rife with opportunity. Organizations at all sizes keep finding ways to monetize content, through initiatives met with varying degrees of success and educational quality. Only the best clairvoyants in the industry might be able to tell what the future of learning holds, but we do know they will depend on the students’ demands for relevant and solid skills. In such a competitive, yet open field, the edge does not rely on one trick, but in the ability to keep fine-tuning them and coming up with next-best-thing candidates continuously. Whether it is deeper personalization, engagement, data-based design and implementation, or even automation, survival depends on the ability to move away from the fad and stay on top of the wave.