Online Learning: The Future is Now
Have you been thinking about taking an online course but wondering if an online degree would be as good as one earned at a traditional college? Online education programs, and the number of students enrolled in them, increase every year, and accredited online learning degrees continue to gain respect from far-sighted educators and employers alike. Considering the high cost of college today and the hectic demands of 21st-century life, many professionals in teaching agree that online learning is an idea whose time has come.
Enrollment in online education programs reflects their growing popularity
Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online college course in the fall of 2006, a 10% increase over the year before1. The steady growth of online class enrollment proves that students are interested in this higher education option. This isn't a surprise to innovative educators any more. For most students taking classes online, e-learning is more convenient, more flexible, and often more satisfying than going to school in a traditional campus setting.
Key goals of online education programs: accreditation and quality
We often assume that most U.S. college students are age 18 to 22 and attending a traditional 4-year university. In fact, this assumption is wrong! A 2006 U.S. Department of Education study reported that 58% of today's college students are age 22 or older, going to school part-time, enrolled in 2-year learning institutions, and seeking career-related education2.
As more and more schools learn of these statistics, they are making sure their online education programs are accredited and comparable in quality to traditional campus classes. And many schools are succeeding, because most online program graduates and their employers believe that online education programs are equal to or better than traditional classroom teaching and learning3.
Key benefits of online education programs: flexibility and freedom
As schools increase their elearning classes, they are tailoring their online education programs to meet the needs of a wide range of adult students, including those who don't have the time or transportation to attend a traditional campus class, who learn best when working at their own pace, who are serving in the military far from home, or who are returning to school after several years in the workforce. Furthermore, as technology becomes more sophisticated, creative educators use it to design more interesting, more fun, and more effective methods of teaching and learning.
Aside from user-friendly technology, another reason why online education programs are becoming so popular may be that many online students are in their mid-30s, with fulltime employment and family responsibilities. These nontraditional adult learners are seeking to earn college degrees, become eligible for higher pay, and advance their careers without disrupting their families or leaving their current employment.
Key achievements of online education programs: accessibility and an educated American workforce
Today's schools are responding to the education goals and requirements of nontraditional students by developing accredited online education programs that are accessible, reputable, and transferable to other accredited schools. Online learning is making a college degree possible for a greater number of students than ever before, preparing them for the diverse challenges of the 21st century.
- More about Online Learning
- What is E-Learning?
- Who is Online Learning For?
- What To Look For in an Online Program
- Online Degrees and Accreditation
- Comparing the Costs of Campus Vs. Online Degree Programs
- Paying for your Online Degree
1) "Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning (TM)" Copyright October 2007, The Sloan Consortium.
2) "Hidden in Plain Sight: Adult Learners Forge a New Tradition in Higher Education," Commission on the Future of Higher Education, U.S. Department of Education
3) 2007 Distance Education Survey, Distance Education and Training Council, June 2007.
Lisa Ruffino is CourseAdvisor's Editorial Director.