Online learning models are a higher-ed staple for many different reasons, including flexibility, availability to students in different geographical areas, and the ability to help workers build new skills or strengthen existing ones.

But now, online learning is on the verge of yet another revolution, in which students demand blended learning experiences, according to a whitepaper from Entangled Solutions. These learning models, which are a mix of online and face-to-face, in addition to other demands from a new generation of students, will require colleges and universities to rethink their online learning models.

“The future of work, indeed the future of our country, depends on our higher-education system thinking differently about how to prepare the next generation of talent,” writes Jeffrey Selingo, a senior strategist with Entangled Solutions, in the foreword. “The decade ahead will require institutions to ask the right questions about online education, to experiment, and attempt new approaches.”

Up to now, online learning has experienced four waves:

These 3 unique student groups are behind some big changes in online learning

1. The first wave of higher-ed online learning offered non-credit offerings and a number of degree-granting, for-profit institutions such as University of Phoenix and Kaplan. For-profits experienced intense growth as the demand for online learning skyrocketed.

2. The second wave saw the rapid rise of online enrollments at institutions that emphasized their nonprofit status in order to distance themselves from for-profits, which started to experience federal investigations and increased regulation.

3. MOOCs dominated the third wave of online learning. Their free, open, and noncredit structure appealed to many, especially because many MOOCs came from prestigious universities such as MIT and Harvard. Many thought MOOCs had the potential to “democratize elite education and revolutionize the whole system of learning and credentialing.”

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

Add your opinion to the discussion.