E-learning: What Next?

Online education provides a quality alternative to on-the-ground degree programs. It offers students and working professional’s greater flexibility as to time and place as most programs are offered asynchronously, meaning students and professionals can take them at any time of the day or night. According to a recent research, more than 70% individuals think online education is good for their career. The researchers find that the outcomes from online courses, diplomas and programs are equal to or better than those of traditional counterparts.

More than 5 million students or 25% of all university and college students are registered in online education degree programs according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 11% of students are registered exclusively in online education programs while 14% are registered in some traditional and some online education programs. Enrollments in online degree programs have been growing much faster in recent years at public and private universities.

Almost all colleges and universities with enrollments of 5,000 students or more offer online education/e-learning programs and 80% of those with enrollments of fewer than 5,000 students offer online education. At the smaller colleges, these may be completely online programs or a part of a traditional program. Many colleges and institutes are adding online education diplomas, courses and programs to their portfolio.

MOOCs (massive open online courses) have not replaced either on-the-ground or online programs that charge tuition as some initially speculated when they were first introduced. Only 8% of higher education institutes currently offer MOOCs.  MOOCs offer access to a wide variety of programs and courses from some of the best faculty and institutes in the country; numerous institutes which don’t offer MOOCs are incorporating them into their curriculum as they are free.  Some MOOCs are now adding charges for students and working professionals who want certification of successful completion of the degree program.

E-learning also offers traditional brick and mortar institutes with the ability expand their program. It allows easy access to their students to new majors and more diplomas from other institutes during the traditional academic year.  This takes the burden off of institutes for providing as broad an array of programs as they needed to in the past and offers an opportunity for institutes to run their academic courses and programs more economically. In addition, many traditional universities are offering more online diplomas and programs so that students who wish to study abroad for a term can still get required programs from their home campus as well as during the summer when these students return home.

All will agree that the experience of taking a degree programs online versus in a classroom is different and both types should continue to be offered. I forecast that the day will soon come when we will not differentiate programs and courses by their teaching modality and companies and others will not ask whether the degree program was online or in person. Online degree programs will continue to expand access to education to those individuals without the time or money to attend a traditional on-the-ground class as well as well as to those who prefer this modality.

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Michael John

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