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Online Learning Design lessons for HEIs

Online Learning HEIs
CAPTION: Online learning contributes to an opportunity of educational equity across all borders.

Online Learning Design: Making Lessons More Effective in Higher Education

Online learning is undergoing a period of significant growth as access to information becomes more universal. It is projected that the online learning market will reach $350 billion by 2025. The COVID-19 pandemic has all the more proven the importance of online education with the rise of virtual learning or digital learning in higher education.

Key Points at a Glance

  • asic and effective learning design remains similar for traditional and online learning.
  • The pandemic has accelerated the “edtech revolution” with capital investment coming in. 
  • Classes moved from classroom to Zoom are merely video conferences that have been launched since the ‘90s and offer little innovation.
  • Leaders and policymakers need to prioritize edtech in their institutions — artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc. — to remain competitive and sustainable.

Online Learning Design

Online learning design refers to the process of creating a flexible online learning experience that is designed to engage students and to foster collaboration. How to design an effective online course is not that hard, really.

When it comes to best practices in the planning and design of online learning, the same basic principles remain the same when educational institutions design a course to engage students in a traditional classroom setting. While these are some of the following practices for traditional face-to-face learning, these are also applicable for virtual learning.

1) Have clear objectives for student learning.

2) Provide all required materials upfront. 

3) Have teaching methods integrated into the lesson plan. 

4) Give lots of feedback on student work as soon as possible. 

5) Enable learners to practice what they have learned as soon as possible.

These are some of the ways which could help maximize student engagement during an online class.

Real Innovation

Of all modern industries, higher education lagged the most when it comes to pushing for a digitally driven business model. In the United States, less than five percent of college budgets are allocated for IT infrastructure. COVID-19 and online teaching in higher education has changed all of this.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that there were seven million plus students enrolled in distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions just months before the pandemic was declared official. The same data also shows that before the pandemic, two-thirds of college students opted for traditional campus-based learning.

Online learning in higher education is becoming a focus of priority for institutional policymakers. That said, it is therefore imperative to look into online course design best practices.

While the events of 2020 have certainly accelerated the push for the use of a digitalization in higher education, it is most certainly still far from ideal. Moving classes from classrooms to Zoom is just another means of “video conferencing” that has already been practiced by businesses since the 1990s. 

There is much for higher education institutions to tap into. Thankfully, the first half of 2020 saw the second largest half-year investment for global edtech at $4.5 billion. A report published by HolonIQ, an investment intelligence firm, predicts that “global edtech venture capital will nearly triple over the next decade. Asia (except China), Latin America and Africa will see much higher investment over the next five years.”

With this multi-billion infusion into the digitalization of learning, higher education institutions will have to invest as well in utilizing next-generation educational technologies that make use of cloud computing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The utilization of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platforms, which continues to gather massive amounts of data from millions of students to power automated education delivery, assessment and analysis, is just the beginning. 

Not only is this course of action efficient but highly sustainable. To date, there are plus-70 MOOC-based degrees available online offered by 27 higher education institutions from all over the world (U.S., Australia, U.K., France, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil, India and Russia). While most of these are master’s degree courses, seven of them are bachelor’s degrees. 

Not surprisingly, the much lower cost of completing a degree through online means makes for a very intriguing value proposition for students, and most especially for international students.


Online learning has grown rapidly in recent years, but because of COVID-19, it is now also becoming mainstream. Now is the time for people in leadership at their institutions to prioritize the digital transformation of education through virtual learning.

An effective online learning design will contribute to the equity of higher education all across the board from the institutions and their stakeholders all the way to the faculty and students. It will take time, but quality higher education opened up for all will create a ripple effect that will benefit local communities and soon after, the entire global population.

Data sources:

Online Education Market Study 2019 | World Market Projected to Reach $350 Billion by 2025, Dominated by the United States and China (2019, December 17) Research and Markets. Retrieved from https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/12/17/1961785/0/en/Online-Education-Market-Study-2019-World-Market-Projected-to-Reach-350-Billion-by-2025-Dominated-by-the-United-States-and-China.html

Li, C. (2020, April 29) The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/

Milkova, S. Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning. University of Michigan. Retrieved from https://crlt.umich.edu/gsis/p2_5

Khan, A. (2017) Active Learning: Engaging Students To Maximize Learning In An

Online Course. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1141876.pdf

Lang, L. (2018, November 29) 2017 EDUCAUSE Core Data Service (CDS) Benchmarking Report. Educause. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/resources/2018/11/2017-educause-core-data-service-cds-benchmarking-report

Distance Learning. National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80

$4.5B Global EdTech Venture Capital for 1H 2020 (2020, July 10) Holon IQ. Retrieved from https://www.holoniq.com/notes/4.5b-global-edtech-venture-capital-for-q1-2020/ 

Ledwon, H. (2021, May 25) 70+ Legit Master’s Degrees You Can Now Earn Completely Online. The Report by Class Central. Retrieved from https://www.classcentral.com/report/mooc-based-masters-degree/


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