10 Top Online Learning Trends for 2024: Definitive Guide

Devlin Peck
. Updated on 
December 5, 2023
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What are the top online learning trends in 2024?

Artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, machine learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality are just a few trends we’ll talk about today. These trends are actively influencing online learning this year and will surely expand for years to come.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go.

What are the most important online learning trends in 2024?

  1. Nano-learning
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  3. Online and hybrid education
  4. Virtual reality (VR)
  5. Gamification
  6. Edtech
  7. Socialization
  8. Upskilling
  9. Mobile learning
  10. Analytics and data

Lower attention spans are driving nano-learning as a top online learning trend

Nano-learning, also known as micro-learning, aims to deliver efficient, bite-sized education without requiring learners to devote long hours to the training or experience. The overall content is easily digestible in short durations as it is broken down to be consumed one at a time.

Micro-learning is found in the form of small videos, texts, infographics, podcasts, quizzes, or interactive activities. The main components of this nano-learning trend are short durations, accessibility across various devices, extremely brevity, and just-in-time delivery. These short lessons most often start with a surprising fact or humor to draw the attention of learners.

Nano-learning helps to form one specific skill at a time by eliminating the “unnecessary” information surrounding it. The major purpose of nano-learning should not be to reduce time to learn something, but more so to meet all the learning objectives.

Why is this trend gaining traction now? GenZ and Millennials prefer to not complete longer, traditional-length programs but they are eager to learn new skills and tools. Couple this with the fact that attention spans are declining.

There has been a significant shift towards small screens (smartphones and tablets) to watch content – something that might boost the reach of nano-learning. 68 out of 100 people prefer to use smartphones or tablets to consume digital content in comparison to 29 out of 100 people choosing desktops and laptops.

Above all, nano-learning helps people acquire skills faster – which is crucial in a fast-changing job market. And as part of this trend, micro-credentials are getting more popular (short courses, which lead to certifications). In fact, 26% of universities say that micro-credentials are a credible alternative to degree programs.

3 in 4 people think the adoption of AI in education has improved learning outcomes

Globally, AI in the education market is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 45.9% during the period 2023-2028. And in a survey, 71% of institutions agreed that deployment of AI helped them to increase efficiency. 63% agreed to have achieved better student engagement.

In another survey from 2022, 75% of people agreed that the adoption of AI improved learner outcomes.

Current use-cases of AI in education include machine learning, advanced analytics, computer vision, and natural language processing. Approximately 8 out of 10 respondents consider AI in the form of analytics and language to have an impact on education. More than 45% of the respondents planned to adopt AI in their organizations.

Online learning platforms are leveraging AI-based technologies to offer personalized and customized features to students. For instance, Coursera makes use of AI-based tools for lesson planning, student feedback, and grading processes.

Use of AI in online learning can be beneficial for instructors, too, as it can help streamline grading assignments, creating courses and presentations, writing relevant objectives, and planning classes and syllabi. AI helps eliminate manual and tedious processes like taking attendance and managing permissions. By gaining back valuable time, teachers can craft better curriculum and worry less about the admin side of education.

There is a 63% chance of losing a student if an institution does not offer an online learning module of a program

Most schools are turning to some form of online learning. In fact, blended or hybrid learning is becoming more common with students taking in-person and online courses in tandem to maximize their resources.

In an Online College Students survey, 63% of students favor an online learning model because it offers them flexibility and allows them to manage other life-related responsibilities.

77% of educators agree that online learning is as good as traditional classroom learning. Similarly, almost 70% of students claim that online learning is equivalent to or better than classroom learning.

In a survey from 2022, 19% of students reported that they would “definitely not” join a program if it was not available in an online learning model. Meanwhile, 60% of students stated that they would look for another institution if an online version of the program was not available in a specific institution.

At the same time, the overall market for degree programs decreased by 3% between 2019 and 2020. But the four biggest open-access online education providers grew their enrollment by 11%.

Last year, another study revealed that the chances of losing a student are 63% if an online version of a program is not being offered by an institution. However that same year, almost half (48%) of online students still sought a school within 50 miles of their homes. This is slightly up from 44% of students who performed the same search ten years prior.

In short, this online learning trend proves that schools must adapt and offer online programs or they face losing both students and teachers.

AR and VR technologies are making online learning 76% more effective compared to traditional learning methods

In online learning, AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are on the newer side of the spectrum. These emerging technologies are dramatically transforming the ways that people learn. With AR/VR technologies, learners get to experience learning in an immersive and interactive way.

The global market for AR and VR in training is estimated to witness a CAGR of 41.2% during 2022 - 2031. The market size is expected to reach $142 billion by the end of 2031.

Over half (51%) of companies either have already implemented or have a plan to implement a VR ecosystem within their training programs. Employees who undergo VR-powered training are 4 times faster to train and 275% more confident to apply the learned skills at their job than when they learn with traditional methods.

What's more, students using VR technology felt 3.5 times more emotionally connected to the course than the students who went through a classroom training. And Stanford University and the Technical University Denmark have found that virtual methods of teaching are 76% more effective than traditional methods.

Another notable example of VR learning was at the University School of Medicine in Atlanta where surgeons were trained in a VR-based ecosystem. It was found that VR-based trained surgeons made 40% fewer mistakes than the traditionally trained surgeons.

There is still a long way to go in the advancement of these augmented and virtual realities, but the benefits are promising for the future of online learning.

More than 3 out of 5 students consider gamified learning to be motivating

Teachers have used games in the classroom to help their students learn for a while now. But online gamification has taken things to the next level .

Gamification in online learning refers to the use of game-based elements such as rewards, prizes, points, badges, challenges, quests, avatars, simulations, customizations, and real-time applications. The main motive of gamification is to make the course more interactive and engaging for students.

A gamified learning experience offers students an interactive interface and is more dynamic in nature. In a study, around 67% of the students agreed that gamified learning is more motivating than a traditional course. More interestingly, this statistic carried across people of all demographics (gender, age, status, profession).

In short, ALL learners find gamified learning to be more motivating.

A study found out that a gamified approach improves a student’s overall performance by 35% and a challenge-based gamification improves a student’s performance by 90% when compared to in-class training.

Courses that are “gamified” work to build emotional connections between the content and the students. This, in turn, helps students complete the learning experience more effectively. Employers also make use of gamified forms of learning to train, onboard, and upskill employees.

In the US, 80% of employees agree that gamified learning is more engaging and has a positive impact on overall training. It is also known to increase employee productivity and engagement by 50% and 60%, respectively.

Education technology grew from $1 billion to $8 billion in 4 years, while offering assistive technology to students and assessment technology to teachers

Education technology is a fast-growing market, with US venture funding for edtech growing from $1 billion to $8 billion between 2017 and 2021.

At the same time, online students are using assistive technologies to help them learn better. Around 57% of students use at least one assistive technology or device in their online learning programs. Some of these tools include captions, transcripts, screen magnification, and spelling or writing support.

On the other hand, technology also gives instructors and teachers tools to assess their students more efficiently. For instance, teachers can use AI and machine learning to figure out where a student is struggling. Or, they might use these tools to make their work (including testing, scoring, and administrating) more effective.

Socialization is an obstacle in online classrooms as half of online-only learners have never worked with a classmate

The internet, and especially online learning, removes geographical boundaries. Diverse groups of students can come together more easily. However, the quality of these interactions vary greatly between online and in-class environments.

65% of online-only students have never met with classmates outside of class and 50% have never even collaborated with others for a project. Meanwhile, 58% online-only students never interacted with their instructors outside of the class in comparison to 43% hybrid students.

To combat this, newer online learning trends are providing students with tools for more social learning. Examples are real-time collaboration, breakout rooms for discussions, easy access, 24/7 troubleshooting support, Q&A sessions with professors, social clubs, and special academic invitations.

These initiatives are meant to grow their network and help them to prevent feelings of isolation—if students learn to use them.

Almost 10% of Americans have spent money on eLearning or professional training to upskill

Companies may offer training and upskilling, but many US employees are happily investing their own cash on eLearning or professional training. 9% spent money on online training, 6% hired a business/life coach, and 7% report spending money learning another way. Why?

Employees who undertake an upskilling program earn around $8,000 more than their peers who haven’t undergone a similar training. People feel the need to stay updated with new technologies and tools to stay relevant in the competitive job market. This trend drives them to invest in upskilling, especially through online learning programs due to its flexibility.

Globally, the top three markets of individuals investing in online learning and upskilling are India, Brazil and China. The number was around half of the online adult population or even exceeded it in various markets. In India, an overwhelming 69% of urban Indians reported spending money on online learning.

At the same time, online learning platforms (like Udemy or Coursera) have grown significantly over the past few years. For example, as of December 31, 2022, almost 118 million users were registered on Coursera and 58 million active users registered on Udemy. Duolingo has more than 575 million users.

And the number of learners reached by massive open online courses (MOOCs) increased from 300,000 to 220 million from 2011 to 2021.

Mobile learning is on the rise with mobile users completing courses 45% faster

With hybrid learning, edtech, micro-learning and other online learning trends, mobile learning platforms will likely become more important. That’s why learning experiences should be optimized for mobile in the future – including things like videos, quizzes, and downloadable content.

Merril Lynch was able to save 4,270 hours by offering mobile learning in an experiment. Mobile learners completed courses 45% faster than those who took the course on a  desktop computer. 99% of participants said mobile learning supported their learning, with 75% identifying convenience, time savings, and training with no distractions as key benefits.

Data and analytics make learning more personalized

Learning analytics and data are being used to understand things like completion rates, how learning experiences can be improved, how they can be tailored for more effective learning, and so on.

It’s a growing market, too – the global big data analytics market in education was valued at $13.58 billion in 2020. It’s projected to hit $57.14 billion by 2030 – that’s a CAGR of 15.3%.


That’s it – now you know what the most notable emerging online learning trends are.

All of these trends revolve around technology, such as AI. And that’s no surprise – AI will impact the industry in so many ways we can’t even predict today. Ultimately, all of these trends help boost the education industry by making it easier and more affordable for people to learn.

Read more:

eLearning Trends: The Ultimate List

Top Online Learning Statistics

Top eLearning Statistics

What is eLearning?


Jisc data analytics

Grand View Research


The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE )

Global Market Estimates




Instructor Academy








eLearning Industry

Transparency Market Research








University of Potomac





Allied Market Research

Devlin Peck
Devlin Peck
Devlin Peck is the founder of DevlinPeck.com, where he helps people build instructional design skills and break into the industry. He previously worked as a freelance instructional designer and graduated from Florida State University.
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