Online College Degrees
Enrollment in online degree programs has been steadily growing, and there is no evidence to suggest that interest in online education or, for that matter, free online college courses -- known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) -- is likely to end in the near future.
In the study Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, the Babson Survey Research Group described the enrollment rate of students in online degree programs as "robust," and no abatement in enrollment numbers for online education is foreseen. Authors I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman reported that overall enrollment of students taking at least one online college course has remained constant or increased, especially among private and public nonprofit schools. Indeed, the percentage share of online enrollments out of total enrollments has not been in the single digits since 2002.
Additionally, 65 percent of all surveyed institutions reported that online education was a "critical" part of their long-term education strategy. Advantages of online colleges include the flexible schedule, which allows students to enroll in programs when they otherwise might not. Students with families or career-minded individuals who need or want to expand their education but cannot postpone their career or abandon their obligations can pursue their goals by attending an online college.
Online college courses may allow institutions to offer classes for a lower cost than most traditional classes, with a wider range of subjects than those offered in a normal schedule and curriculum. Not every school can be open 24 hours, seven days a week. However, an online class can be. Online colleges may also require less overhead to operate than a brick-and-mortar campus, which could create savings for the school.
Growing Acceptance of Online Colleges
In addition to the growing number of students in online programs, an increasing number of academics are coming to accept online education. The Babson study found that 67 percent of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes of online education as the same or better than face-to-face learning. The same can be said for employers, who have learned that online colleges can be as valuable as their traditional counterparts.
In 2008 MSNBC reported that employers were already starting to value online college degrees as highly as traditional degrees. In 2010 U.S. News & World Report referred to an Excelsior College/Zogby International survey showing four in five CEOs and small-business owners considered an online college degree as good as a traditional degree. This article also noted that acceptance is greater than in the past when, according to the founder of GetEducated.com, Vicky Phillips, a stigma existed in the minds of employers if a degree was earned at an online school. For example, according to a 2006 New York Times article, 96 percent of small or medium-size companies surveyed said they would choose a traditionally schooled candidate over a candidate with an online degree.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
In addition to increased access to, enrollment in and acceptance of massive online college degrees, free online college courses are also available. These massively open online courses, such as MIT's Open CourseWare, typically provide students with a full college course at no cost. In general, these MOOCs have not provided credit, but Anant Agarwal, president of edX, told The New York Times in November 2012 that he expected the completion of these MOOC programs to be given credit in the same way advanced placement programs are treated now. Inside Higher Ed reports that the American Council on Education (ACE) is assessing credit recommendations for online courses, and on February 7, 2013, Coursera announced the likelihood of some of its courses earning ACE credits.
The Big Reveal: Online Degrees and the Job Search, U.S. News & World Report, 2010 - http://www.usnewsuniversitydirectory.com/articles/online-degrees-and-job-search_10566.aspx
Degrees of Acceptance, The New York Times, July 30, 2006 - http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/education/edlife/conted.html?pagewanted=all
Expanding Pathways to MOOC Credit, Inside Higher Ed, February 7, 2013 - http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/07/ace-deems-5-massive-open-courses-worthy-credit
Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, Babson Survey Research Group - http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/goingthedistance.pdf
MIT OpenCourseWare - http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
Online colleges earning respect -- to a degree, MSNBC, September 7, 2008, Eve Tahmincioglu - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26458424/ns/business-careers/t/online-colleges-earning-respect-degree/
The Year of the MOOC, The New York Times, November 2, 2012, Laura Pappano -http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
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