Article: Future of Online Education
According to the Sloan Consortium,
more than 34 percent of all American colleges offered online degree
programs in 2003.
Have you thought about pursuing
a college education online? Have you hesitated because you doubted
that many programs were available, or that many students were taking
advantage of them? If so, you should take heart in further Sloan Consortium
statistics. Almost 50 percent of public colleges offered online degree
programs in 2003. What's more, in 2002, 1.6 million students took
online courses. More students are enrolled in a greater number of
online programs than ever before--and these numbers are projected
Matters were much different only
a few years ago. In 1998, according to the New York State Department
of Education, only 8 percent of universities offered some form of
distance education degree. Since that percentage includes forms of
distance education such as correspondence and video-based technologies,
the online percentage was even smaller. The numbers of students taking
online courses were small, too. For instance, as reported by Jan Jarvis,
one major Texas university had fewer than 100 students enrolled in
online courses in 1998.
Degree offerings were also limited
in 1998. At that time, most programs were geared towards students
wanting to complete graduate and professional degrees in management,
health professions, engineering and education.
Everybody Learns Online:
Online education has changed
much in recent years. Not only do almost 50 percent of public colleges
now offer online degrees, but, the Sloan Consortium shows, almost
72 percent of all colleges now offer online courses of some form.
And far more students are taking advantage of online education than
ever before. The university in Texas, for example, had about 2000
students taking online courses in 2002.
Though many online degrees and
classes are still intended for working professionals, many schools
now offer a broad range of programs similar to that offered by traditional
campus-based colleges. For instance, some online schools let you pursue
degrees in such disciplines as psychology, math, liberal arts, or
Who are Your Classmates?
In 1998 the vast majority of
online students were working professionals. Usually older than the
traditional 18-24 demographic, they were working to complete a professional
degree or earn a certification.
Today you might find that while
most of your online classmates still belong to the older demographic,
there are now students in the 18-24 age range taking online courses.
Some of these students want to complete a certification. Others are
in a traditional, campus-based degree program. They take online courses
because of conflicts with part-time jobs or other responsibilities.
Your online classmates might
also be based in other countries. As the Internet access becomes common
around the world, more students are enrolling in online schools whose
physical campuses are in a different country.
Online Education's Bright Future:
According to researcher Diane
Harley, there will be 2 million more students enrolled in colleges
across the United States in 2010 than in 2000. In an era of budget
cuts, it's unlikely that physical college campuses can be expanded
to accommodate so many new students. Even as schools become more crowded,
however, Internet access will become nearly universal. And a significant
percentage of students will have access to technology like broadband
and wireless, which will make online education even more convenient.
The two trends--more students, and better technology--should make
for increased availability of online education. In fact, Scott Howell
suggests that up to fifty percent of traditional campus programs may
be exclusively or alternately available online within a few years.
If you're looking for a college
education, there's a good chance you can find the program you need
online right now. And if you wait for a few years, you may only find
your program online.
. Harley, Diane, "Investing in Educational Technologies: The
Challenge of Reconciling Institutional Strategies, Faculty Goals,
and Student Expectations," UC Berkeley Center for Studies in
Higher Education, 2002, http://repositories.cdlib.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=cshe
. Howell, Scott, et al, "Thirty-two Trends Affecting Distance
Education: An Informed Foundation for Strategic Planning," Online
Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VI, Number III,
Fall 2003, http://www.westga.edu/~distance/jmain11.html
. Jarvis, Jan, "Degree seekers turn to cyberspace," Arlington
. New York State Education Department, "Trends In Virtual Education
In The United States," http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/technology/
. Sloan Consortium, "Sizing the Opportunity: The Quality and
Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003",