Last updated: 26.08.14

Online learning attracting new entrants

A sharp rise in vocational training is one of the biggest trends in the education sector right now and developments in technology have helped push this area forward in recent years.

The arrival of online learning has opened up the world of education to people who previously felt shut out, as they have the chance to learn at their own pace and fit their classes around their existing work and family commitments.

An increase in the number of people signing up to apprenticeships has also been fuelled partly by the e-learning boom, as many of these individuals are supplementing their learning on the job with classes in their own time.

Competency-based education is another growing trend across the sector, with this having roots in the US, where Southern New Hampshire University College of America was among the first institutions to offer this type of degree, reports the Economist.

The University of Wisconsin's UW Flex and Capella University's FlexPath are among the other most notable examples of learning establishments taking note of competency-based education and this is likely to continue to make waves in the coming years.

Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School and Michelle Weise of the Christensen Institute argue in their new e-book that the rise of massive online open courses is going to disrupt the education industry in the coming years.

Students may feel they are better served by signing up to online learning options rather than committing to a more traditional path, especially if they can combine their classes with a job that ensures they are still able to earn while they learn.

Vastly increased university tuition fees in the UK in recent years have had the result of many people from low-income backgrounds being discouraged from studying for a degree, despite the fact they can access loans they would not have to pay back until they were earning over a set amount.

Online learning could be set to offer another option to these individuals who feel as if they have been priced out of going to university.