While hastily planned remote instruction differs from fully planned online college programs, education experts say a shift during the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the growth of online learning.

Colleges are now poised to offer more choices in distance learning, but it takes time, expertise and resources to develop quality online degree programs, says Lisa Templeton, associate provost for Oregon State University’s Ecampus and extended campus programs.

“Many of our faculty and students that would’ve never wanted to teach online or take an online course had to during the pandemic,” she says. “I think they learned that you can connect in meaningful and transformative ways.”

Here’s a look at the future of distance learning as predicted by those who work in online education.

1. Colleges Will Add New Online Programs

After a test run for many schools over the last few years, colleges are emboldened to offer more degree programs virtually, experts say.

Schools may also see a chance to boost enrollment in programs with declining numbers. Shifting programs to online allows colleges to cast a broader net and not rely on local or regional students to boost their headcount, says Ray Schroeder, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois—Springfield and senior fellow at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association.

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