Thinking About Taking Online Classes? You’re Not Alone

You aren't the only person thinking about taking online classes.

Source: Flickr user qwrrty.

One of the biggest changes in education has occurred over the last two decades with the rise of online learning.

From the traditional 300-person lecture halls of modern academia to the ancient rituals held around the campfire by our distant ancestors, humans have, literally for centuries (or, as long as we have existed), learned through face-to-face teaching and interaction.

But, with the rise of technology and the Internet, things have changed. Now, we have Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which allow anyone to learn just about anything from their home–and often for free. We also have the advent of structured and accredited online learning opportunities–from PhDs to MBAs to Bachelor’s or Associate’s degrees–offered entirely through the Internet.

Not only has online education grown in popularity and the number of available degrees and programs increased, but the number of colleges offering online courses and programs has also increased. Thus, there has never been a better time to consider taking online classes than now.

More people are taking online classes

Online classes are a popular choice for both traditional-aged students who are fairly likely to enroll in at least one online class during their college career, and non-traditional learners and graduate students, who are also often enrolled in online-only programs.

Some statistics that show the rising popularity of online classes:

  • More than 5.2 million students are taking at least one online class (Source)
  • There was a 419% increase in the number of students enrolled in at least one online class between 2002 and 2011 (Source)
  • As of 2013, more than 2.6 million students were enrolled in online-only degree programs (Source)

More colleges are offering online degrees

In response to the rising demand for online courses, there are also more colleges offering courses online, and even online-only programs. These days, many of the nation’s biggest and most prestigious colleges even offer online courses for both undergraduate and graduate students.

According to IPEDs data, more than 70% of all active, degree-granting institutions now offer online classes or programs. And, over 95% of institutions enrolling 5,000 or more students do so.

More types of online programs are available

Along with more traditional colleges entering the online education space, there are also new offerings of all types–from free courses that don’t grant credit to specialized certificates, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and beyond.

As a prospective online learner, you can decide which programs are right for your goals and then enroll in the classes that matter most.

Choose from a Business Communications certificate from Harvard Business School or a hybrid Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of North Dakota–the choice is yours! (Well, the choice is kind of yours, you may need to apply and be accepted to some programs).

The most popular online majors and programs

With the rise of online learning a whole, there have also been certain trends that are noticeable in the industry. In particular, the degrees and programs that students are most frequently entering.

It may or may not be surprising, but many of the most popular online degrees mirror the same popular majors and programs on campus.

Here are the most popular online undergraduate programs:

Degree/Major Percent of Students
Business 28%
Health-related professions 17%
Computers and information technology 14%
Social sciences, criminal justice and law 11%
Arts and humanities 9%
Education and teaching 8%
Counseling and human services 6%
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics 6%

The most popular online graduate programs:

Degree/Major Percent of Students
Business 28%
Health-related professions 11%
Computers and information technology 9%
Social sciences, criminal justice and law 10%
Arts and humanities 7%
Education and teaching 22%
Counseling and human services 8%
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics 6%


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