10 Essential Learning Approaches Higher Education Institutions Should Evaluate in 2024

The teaching strategies, target audiences, and learning technology tools higher education institutions use must keep evolving to reflect today’s learners’ needs (and demands).

These learners will seek institutions that can offer a modern, flexible learning experience that prepares them to not only enter the job market but also gives them the skills to pursue a future of lifelong learning to improve their skills, earn industry certifications, and keep up with a rapidly changing job market.

This blog post details 10 learning approaches that higher education institutions must consider to stay competitive in 2024.

1) Continuous Learning Culture

The job market is changing rapidly, as are the skills required to thrive in that market. For many, graduating from college is just the start of their lifelong learning journey. As technologies continue to advance, job roles and functions will also evolve. Learners must continually add and refine skills to prepare themselves for roles that don’t exist yet or are just entering the market now.

These requirements also impact the target audience of higher education. In addition to their current degree programs, higher education needs to help adult learners—including alumni—develop skills and competencies supporting their career goals.

The phrase “continuous learning culture” is often used with professional training programs, but instilling that mindset in employees is easier when learners are exposed to the concept long before entering the workforce. Learners need to be ready and willing to upskill and reskill to continue advancing in their careers. To help students prepare to be lifelong learners, universities and institutions must support ongoing skills development. Integrating education opportunities into practical workflows can help learners get used to learning in new ways that support their development while preparing them for their future career tasks.

Promoting a continuous learning culture is more than just a trend. Higher learning institutions need to stay relevant and profitable. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, only 43% of high school graduates immediately enroll in a four-year degree program. With fewer than half of high school graduates enrolling in postsecondary education, higher learning institutions must adapt to the needs and desires of their potential learners to stay competitive. That means ensuring the education environment encourages a culture of continuous learning and skill development.

10 Essential Learning Approaches Higher Education Institutions Should Evaluate in 2024

STAY IN THE KNOW | ‘The Top 4 Current Education Trends and How to Stay Ahead

2) Goal-Focused Personalized Learning Paths

Technology has made personalization the norm in many facets of learners’ lives. Algorithms that recommend content based on past preferences appear everywhere from social media feeds to online shopping portals. To keep pace with learners’ expectations, personalization in learning should be considered the new normal. This requires increased emphasis on personalized learning paths and experiences tailored to an individual’s educational goals.

Each learner’s reasons for entering a postsecondary institution are unique. Learners have goals for their professional lives, such as a specific career path or skill set they wish to acquire. In the years ahead, tools like Open LMS’s personalized learning designer and other adaptive learning technologies will increasingly give learners access to relevant content and supplemental materials designed to help them achieve their goals.

These tools can also dynamically adjust content based on learners’ performance. When learners score below a certain threshold, adaptive learning technologies can automatically provide remediation to improve learning outcomes. Conversely, learners who score at or above predetermined criteria can be given additional learning materials to deepen their knowledge or continue their learning journeys.

3) Immersive Learning

Higher education institutions continue to incorporate immersive learning tools into their curriculums. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies are increasingly being integrated into courses to give learners practical experiences that simulate potential future working environments. AR brings digital elements into the physical world, allowing learners to interact with virtual objects and information in real time. VR makes experiential learning more accessible by taking learners to entirely simulated environments. Both technologies can prepare learners for their future careers through immersive experiences.

Additionally, learners benefit from an increasing emphasis on gamification in their coursework. Interactive, game-like design elements can make learning more engaging for learners and increase their motivation to learn. It’s also possible that using these approaches will increase retention rates. When learners enjoy their learning experiences, it stands to reason that they’ll continue their educational programs.

10 Essential Learning Approaches Higher Education Institutions Should Evaluate in 2024

READ ABOUT AI AND LEARNING | ‘The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in L&D: New Opportunities and Challenges

4) Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Education

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for years, its recent boom in popularity is set to continue in 2024. AI-driven tools will help personalize the learning experience, support student success, and streamline teaching processes. Higher education institutions and instructors will use AI tools to:

  • Write multiple-choice questions
  • Generate essay prompts
  • Develop lesson plans
  • Evaluate assessments
  • Identify at-risk learners
  • Provide learners with timely feedback
  • Suggest relevant learning content
  • Create content based on information sources and rules
  • Real-time assistance with tutors through large language models
  • Exams simulations

AI-powered chatbots will likely see a rise in popularity among both learners and instructors. These chatbots can provide instant support for learners seeking additional learning materials or specific content within a course. Similarly, chatbots help teachers immediately locate specific information or answer administrative questions to solve common problems.

5) Microlearning

There’s a common misconception that microlearning is just taking a large learning unit and condensing it into a shorter course. Still, this popular teaching approach isn’t about cramming tons of information into tiny timeframes. Microlearning is a learning design strategy meant to teach short, standalone concepts that learners can benefit from quickly. Similar to how someone will search for a video when they need to learn how to change a tire, microlearning courses are intended to teach meaningful, often actionable skills quickly—usually within 10 to 20 minutes.

Microlearning is becoming more common for workplace learning, and the approach is being integrated into existing training and credentialing programs. When this bite-sized learning content leads to marketable skills or professional certifications, learners are more prepared to enter the workforce and land a job.

10 Essential Learning Approaches Higher Education Institutions Should Evaluate in 2024

READ MORE | ‘The Benefits of Microlearning: 8 Minutes to Make an Impact

6) Social Learning

While learners want flexibility and personalization, interaction and socialization are essential to deepen student learning. Of course, that collaboration looks different for hybrid and remote learners. Face-to-face learning environments inherently encourage student interaction, but social learning online is another story.

In 2021, about 60% of U.S. college learners took at least one class online, and 30% of learners enrolled in exclusively online courses. With more learners opting to complete at least some of their courses digitally, higher education institutions will continue to emphasize platforms and educational tools that facilitate social interactions and collaboration among learners. Tools like interactive discussion boards and peer-to-peer activities simulate the face-to-face classroom environment and allow learners to engage in more social learning.

7) Data-Driven Decision-Making

Learning analytics help higher education institutions gain valuable insights into student progress, optimize instructional strategies, and enhance learner success. That’s why learning analytics will remain an essential aspect of education in 2024. The technology makes it easy for instructors and institutions to use student data obtained from their learning management system (LMS) to inform decision-making and improve educational outcomes.

One key benefit of learning analytics is the ability to identify at-risk learners. Course performance and engagement metrics can be monitored and tracked by instructors. If the data indicates that some learners are struggling academically or aren’t engaging much with the course, teachers can intervene quickly and offer the support those learners need to find success.

8) Accessibility and Inclusivity

According to data on U.S. college learners from the Lumina Foundation:

  • 6% serve in the military
  • 40% work full time
  • 24% have children or dependents
  • 36% don’t know where their next meal will come from
  • 57% live independently from their parents in off-campus housing

With learners juggling so many competing priorities, higher education institutions must offer inclusive courses and learning programs that consider learners’ many needs. For example, learners working full-time jobs or caring for their dependents likely can’t make it to class sessions scheduled in the middle of the day. Evening or weekend classes, as well as hybrid and fully remote learning options, can offer more flexibility to learners who can’t attend in-person weekday meetings.

Learning institutions must also strive to make course content accessible for all learners. Posting an informational video is a great option for learners who have vision difficulties. It’s also great for busy learners who need to multitask, since it gives learners the freedom to listen to the content while commuting, cleaning, or exercising, among other things. However, transcripts or another written version of the content must be made available for learners who are hard of hearing or struggle to absorb auditory information. It might not be possible to plan for every learner’s specific circumstances, but learners will gravitate toward institutions that are making a concerted effort to make learning accessible and inclusive.

10 Essential Learning Approaches Higher Education Institutions Should Evaluate in 2024

KEEP LEARNING | ‘Navigating the Future of Education and Employment: Bridging Degrees, Certifications, and Skills

9) Human-Centered Design

Instructional designers continue to prioritize the user experience with human-centered design principles. Learners complete coursework on their smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other devices. When users can’t seamlessly transition between devices, it can cause frustration and distract learners from the learning experience. Additionally, clunky course design can make it more difficult for instructors to assess student progress, provide feedback, upload materials, and more.

Course design will continue to improve to avoid hindering student learning and causing frustrations. Higher education institutions must include end-users in the course design process to understand how the learners and teachers interact with the content. After getting feedback about what does and doesn’t work for users, instructional designers can make improvements. The feedback and improvement cycle should be ongoing to ensure learning experiences are the best they can be for everyone.

10) Remote and Hybrid Learning Models

While distance education isn’t new, 2024 will see continued emphasis on remote and hybrid learning models. Hybrid learning models combine traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning activities. The combination of synchronous, in-person meetings and asynchronous online activities lets higher education institutions leverage the advantages of both modes of instruction. When learners have face-to-face interactions and online experiences, they can experience collaborative discussions and hands-on activities while having more flexibility, better access to resources, and greater opportunities for self-paced learning.

Higher education institutions can also integrate synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences in fully remote teaching models. Video conferencing tools make it possible for instructors to host live class discussions. Learners can also work collaboratively with peers through live chats and video conferencing. Asynchronous content like videos and discussion boards can be viewed and completed independently at the most convenient time for individual learners.

Higher education institutions must be aware of and respond to new and evolving learning approaches to stay relevant. Embracing concepts like microlearning and human-centered design, as well as making content more inclusive and accessible, helps learners see your institution as a place that can meet their needs. Institutions that don’t keep up risk retention loss. Learners will go wherever they can find the educational experience that best meets their needs. Adapting to these needs helps institutions retain learners and appeal to potential new learners.

To see how Open LMS can help you stay ahead of the latest and upcoming learning trends, contact us today.
Germán Rojas
About the author

Germán Rojas

Director, Global Consulting Services

Germán has more than 8 years of experience in the implementation of eLearning projects in universities in Colombian, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Spain, United States, Japan, Australia, among others. Germán has worked as a designer of innovative educational solutions, and has also worked on various global projects to create educational processes. He is currently Director of Professional Services for Open LMS at Learning Technologies Group (LTG).

Discover our solutions