Top Emerging Trends in Online Higher Education


As distance learning increasingly becomes a popular option among college and university students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, a number of emerging trends in online higher education continue to develop. These trends are often a response to changes in student needs and improvements to enhance the student experience.


Among all of the trends likely to be seen in online programs in higher education, changes in technology and the technology used to deliver course work and material are at the top of the list. Technology changes quickly, and online schools and degree programs are constantly looking for new and better ways to deliver courses to students. Some of the latest trends include using tablets, virtual and remote laboratories, and cloud technology.

Podcasting and Social Media

Social media is noticeably becoming a part of culture, and the prevalence of this type of communication is increasingly being noticed in classrooms at all levels of education. In response, many curriculum programs and instructors are utilizing social media outlets to not just deliver material but also to hold office hours and offer an additional source of communication with other students to build communities.

Additional information on using social media in the classroom can be found in the article “Social Media Made Simple” on the National Education Association website.

Podcasting, too, is an emerging trend in online higher education, allowing for curriculum developers and instructors to record lessons and assignment instructions in another way. The ability to disseminate podcasts to students more easily, combined with the personalization of hearing a voice and/or seeing someone, is often well-received by students.

Digital Content

Increasingly, online programs in higher education are also attempting to streamline and make things easier for students by delivering all material, particularly textbooks, digitally. This enables students to download to tablets and other mobile devices, having more access and increasing the ability to complete work anywhere and anytime.


In response to the desire for students to have more interaction with other students as well as instructors, many online programs are also placing emphasis on collaboration and utilizing collaborative tools in the classroom. This includes other trends such as social media but also the incorporation of wikis, discussion forums, and chat sessions between students within a group and the entire class.

Hybrid Courses

The desire to have some face-to-face contact with others has also increased the number of options for hybrid courses in which students complete the majority of work online but also meet with an instructor and other students at regular intervals. Sometimes the in-person meeting is held once per week, or there could be classes with monthly or quarterly meetings depending on the length of the course. Additional information on hybrid course statistics can be found on The Chronicle of Higher Education.

With changes in the expectations of students, faculty, and online course models, more and more online programs are increasing in number. With the number of emerging trends in online higher education, it is likely that these programs will continue to find ways to meet the various needs of a diverse student population.

Instagram Debuts Slideshows for Advertisers

Instagram has been tiptoeing into the world of mobile advertising since 2013, wary of rocking the boat and upsetting its 300 million users and counting. But today, Instagram announced a major change to its advertising strategy with the introduction of slideshow ads.

The new ad format, which the company calls “carousel,” will allow advertisers to post several photos at once for users to flick through. But perhaps more critically, these ads will also allow advertisers to link to websites outside of Instagram where users can learn more about their brands. This is something that brands, hoping to translate “likes” into real world purchases, have always craved but never had access to on Instagram. Now they do. And for Instagram, it makes it much easier to demonstrate the effectiveness of its ads to other potential advertisers.

At the same time, the question remains whether this product could make it more difficult for brands that use Instagram but don’t buy ads on it, to get noticed. A similar tension arose when Facebook, Instagram’s parent company began tweaking its News Feed algorithms in a way that seemed to prioritize advertisements over regular posts from brands and businesses. It’s a change that left many companies with no choice but to begin buying access to their own followers through ads or risk watching their so-called “organic” reach continue to slide.

But if slideshows are successful, it’s hard to see how brands that don’t advertise won’t find themselves at a disadvantage. If all goes according to Facebook’s plan, they’ll find themselves with little choice but to become paying customers, whether they “like” the idea or not. In the meantime, Instagram hasn’t said whether slideshows will ever be an option for regular users. But if the company is trying to sell the new format to advertisers as a premium option, chances are they won’t be available to the rest of us anytime soon.”

#TheDress and Mobile Viewing


What matters most about #TheDress isn’t the color scheme. It’s the popularity of the story.  BuzzFeed’s now-famous Thursday story – simply titled “What Colors Are The Dress?” – now looks like it’ll become the web site’s most-viewed post ever.  In an interview with CNN Money, BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith said, “We’ve has other huge hits.  But this one went bigger faster.”

Maybe that’s the lesson for BuzzFeed and its many rivals: The speed with which #TheDress happened. Stories that previously would have “gone viral” over a period of days can now achieve the same success in hours.  Smith credits the proliferation of mobile devices and the ever-increasing “universality” of the Internet.  “The network is so much more fully built out than it was even a year or two ago,” he said.

To his point, 79% of Thursday’s views of “What Colors Are The Dress?” came from mobile devices like iPhones.  The huge proportion of mobile viewership underscores why technology companies – and, more recently, media companies – have been talking about being “mobile-first.”

According to BuzzFeed, 94% of the story’s views came from social media sites like Twitter and “dark social” sources like links swapped via text-message.  Smith said he appreciated how people also shared the photo of the dress physically, by passing their phones and tablets to friends and family.

The story shaped conversations at dinner, in bars, on couches, over text, all driven by mobile and the ability to show your phone to your friend.  Same picture, same device, but different colors!  In less than 24 hours, people from every corner of the world were looking at each other’s phones at a post, on a site, run by a company totally optimized for social and mobile.

BuzzFeed’s most-viewed story ever is a quiz called “What State Do You Actually Live In?” It was posted in February 2014, and it has racked up 41.6 million views. #TheDress is already in striking distance with 37.6 million views in less than one week.