The Impact of Online Colleges on Education

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The Impact of Online Colleges on Education

If you are considering furthering your education in order to advance your career, certainly by now you know that online education has rapidly become a significant sector in higher education. Indeed, a broad range of courses and fields are now offering online study options. Online education has changed how people study and how feasible it is for them to continue studying even when holding down jobs or raising families. Online education allows a number of benefits that modern students find attractive. Firstly, online education offers considerable flexibility, as well as the ability to go at one’s own pace, to study anytime and anywhere. For many students, the recent inclusion of online courses in higher education programs has made college attainable. In addition, online colleges have had a tremendous impact on education as a whole.

Tracking Online Education Over the Last Decade

In 2012, an annual survey of over 2,800 academic leaders was carried out as a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board. The College Board is an association composed of more than 5,900 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations that develops and administers standardized tests and curricula used by K-12 and post-secondary education institutions as part of the college admissions process. The complete survey report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, looks at many aspects of online education and how it has changed.

Survey Says: Online Education on the Rise Across America

The 2012 Survey of Online Learning reveals that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6.7 million. The study’s co-author Jeff Seaman said that the rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, which is somewhat surprising given that overall higher education enrollments actually declined during this period.

Online Education Bucks Trends; One-Third of Students Take Online Courses

While overall higher education enrollments have declined, online education is a growing area of higher education. Indeed, the study found that thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online: over 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course during the Fall 2011 term, an increase of 570,000 students over the previous year. MOOCs: What, How, Why, and When?Despite the growing numbers of online enrollments, higher education adoption of massive open online courses (MOOCs) remains low, with most institutions still on the sidelines. A MOOC is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.

MOOCs – The Next Horizon in Global Education

MOOCs can be seen as representing the next horizon in online
because they have the potential to reach millions of people around the world. However, what most people, including university leaders, don’t yet realize is that this new way of teaching and learning, together with employers’ changing needs, will likely bring with it a new credentialing system that may compete with college degrees within a decade. The widespread advent of MOOCs would represent much more than just a distribution mechanism. If it is introduced on a broad level, the MOOC model would promise students faster, more consistent educational engagement with high-quality content, and perhaps most importantly, measurable results. Therefore, MOOCs have the potential to create enormous opportunities for students, employers, and teachers – all the while changing the cost structure and practices of traditional campuses. While this is indeed a very new area of online education, it is likely that in the next decade many institutions will start to look at offering MOOCs as the way of the future.

Quality of Learning: Online Education vs. Traditional Education

A common question among prospective students is about the quality of learning offered by online programs. While there is little doubt that online education can enable students to flexibly study at their own pace while balancing personal and professional responsibilities with their academic duties, many students question whether the quality of learning is the same. To that end, the study found that seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face. A major reason for this could be that because online education allows many students to pursue education who would not otherwise be able to do so due to other responsibilities, students who pursue online courses are highly motivated, curious, and willing to take responsibility for their own learning process. In addition, while it may seem counter intuitive, online learning offers a considerable degree of personal interaction because students are often encouraged to personally contact their instructors or facilitators through email, phone, or Skype in order to touch base and ensure that they have understood course goals, materials and assignments.

The Future of Education

Universities that offer online courses and degrees are well-positioned to develop new models of education that combine lower costs, higher quality, and better alignment with the needs of the labor market and particular professional fields. It’s impossible to predict the future, but it looks likely that there will be two different branches of learning experiences in higher education. The first would still be campus-centric, which would allow more traditional social experiences along with technology that would make the learning experience more effective. This could mean that larger lectures are held exclusively online, and class time would be reserved for laboratory or small group work and conversation that develop students’ collaborative and problem solving skills. The other branch of higher education learning experience would be digital-centric, with a core online component. This might be considerably less costly, and possibly be supplemented by small group work or collaborative learning in physical settings.

Online Education – A Core Component in the Education of the Future

It is not yet certain how colleges and universities will change in the coming decades. However, online education will certainly be a core component of higher education that offers broader access, improved employability, and deeper learning— all of which means numerous benefits for both individuals and society as a whole. Florida National University offers traditional, online and hybrid classes to ensure that students have access to classes that fit their learning style and their schedule. To learn more about your options for higher education, please contact one of our advisors today!

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