This article is Part Three of a three-part series on the growth on online colleges. Read Parts One and Two of this series: “Accredited Online Colleges On The Rise” and “Online Learning Is Reshaping Education”.
Currently, in addition to the new programs that are being introduced by accredited online colleges each year, an increasing number of well-established higher education institutions have also begun offering their own online programs.
Columbia University currently offers online programs through the Columbia Video Network (CVN) with Master of Science (MS) and Professional Degrees (PD) available for various engineering disciplines. The University of California, Berkeley, created its first online degree program this year. Students in 2012 will be able to earn a master’s degree in public health in two and a half years by doing 85% of their coursework online.
Furthermore, there are various other high-profile universities such as Harvard and Cornell that currently do not offer a complete online degree program, but do offer various courses and certificate programs online. However, online degrees from these schools may not be far off the horizon, as research indicates that 65.5% of higher education institutions are now incorporating online learning as a critical part of their long-term strategy. In the coming years, the impact of online learning on the present education system will grow as accredited online colleges and traditional universities continue to roll out more online programs to accommodate the rising numbers in online enrollment.
And just how high will the number of online enrollment rise? In 2004, the number of undergraduate students enrolled in at least one distance learning course was 2.96 million, or roughly 15.5% of the total number of students enrolled in college courses. In 2008, that number rose to 4.28 million, roughly 20.4%. As of the fall of 2010, there were 6.14 million students enrolled, constituting 31.3% of the student body. If the number indeed rises to 14 million by 2014, as experts suggest it will, more than half of all college students will then be enrolled in at least one online class.
While the question of whether or not virtual learning schools are suitable for primary and secondary school students is still being debated, accredited online colleges have been gaining increasing acceptance by educators as well as employers. A 2010 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 87% of 449 randomly selected HR professionals viewed online degrees more favorably than they did five years ago, and 79% said that they had hired a job applicant with an online degree over the past year. In the present recession, as more professionals seek to further their education to improve job security and prospects, and as more prestigious higher education institutions begin offering degrees online, online learning will become an even more integral part of the worldwide education system.
Will online learning shift the present education system from the custodial, teacher-based format to one that is student-centric? The grand promise of online learning is that it will one day deliver to every student personalized content, tailored to each individual’s learning style and contextualized to the individual’s interests, at a pace determined by the individual’s proficiency and according to the individual’s availability. Online learning promises to make education more engaging, more accessible, and more effective, so that anyone can learn from anywhere at anytime and master the material better than if they were to attend a brick-and-mortar institution.
Whether such a grand promise can be delivered is surely a topic that will be laboriously tested and debated over the next few years. However, what is certain is that ever since the arrival of the Internet, more academic information continues to become more readily accessible to more people at a lower cost, and that pattern is not about to change.
More professors will offer their courses online. More education institutes will offer degrees online. Even while people debate over whether distance education is better or worse than traditional classroom education, more and more people are using the Internet to teach and to learn. For this reason, accredited online colleges and courses are here to stay. What is taught will inevitably become free (if it is not free already). How it will be taught will make all the difference.
Over the last 15 years, the Internet has revolutionized countless industries including retail, music, publishing, and communication. In a similar way, it will continue to revolutionize how we view education.
More employers value online degrees – An article describing the shift in employers’ perceptions of online degrees over the recent years.
The University of Wherever – An article on Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun’s experiment to offer his courses for free online, and the implication that such developments may have on top-rated college and universities.
How Distance Education Has Changed Teaching and the Role of the Instructor – An academic paper discussing the role of the instructor in an online environment
The Future of Higher Education: How Technology Will Shape Learning – A report from the Economist discussing the role of online education in today’s classrooms
Thinking about studying online? Read this first: “Six Considerations For Those Thinking About Taking An Online Course”.
This article originally appeared on accreditedonlinecolleges.net.
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