In recent years, more and more college students have been taking online classes. What once sounded like a gimmick or novelty has quickly become an increasing trend– up by a massive amount, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A small minority has become what is nearly a third of all college students taking at least one distance education course: and some even take their entire degree programs online. It’s not just at for-profits, either. This happens at state universities and some of the biggest, most competitive schools in the country.
There are many reasons for this recent surge in popularity. Some of the largest are issues with scheduling and convenience, and this is also more of a problem for older students who have families and are working full time and attending college part-time on the side. The data supports this fact: a larger amount of financially independent students, especially those with dependents or those who are married, take one or more distance education courses.
Now that we’ve seen the numbers, let’s talk about what this means.
Not only is online education on the rise, but it is becoming more and more convenient to get an education, which is by far the most important aspect of distance education courses. Say, thirty years ago, if you wanted a degree, you had to apply to a school, get in, register for classes, find somewhere to live, and probably find a job on the side, too, because college is expensive. With this beginning to become the new norm, though, this changes the playing field.
As long as you’re applicable and you get in, you can take classes however far away from the school you like. If you’re out of state, you’ll still be paying out-of-state tuition, but establishing residency for in-state tuition at a college or university has a variety of factors and can be difficult, so it would be no different if you were to attend the college in person anyway.
Things might be a little slower this way, and colleges may not offer every single course online just yet, but things are changing. With these clearly growing trends, colleges would have to be willfully ignorant and foolish to not keep an eye on the way their students are changing their habits when it comes to how they like to get an education. More classes and different courses and degrees will certainly open up, and schedules will become even more flexible– which will allow that full-time single mother a chance at earning a degree and a career change that she would have never had otherwise, giving her a chance to better provide for her family.
It will allow that full-time student who needs a break but doesn’t want to completely halt his education for four or five months to take a class or two during the summer, and get his degree faster. It’s a very simple concept, but the opportunities and doors it opens for people who are having a hard time getting an education, which we all know is the key to success, is phenomenal.
The future of education is not necessarily in a physical classroom with a normal, big, lumpy old textbook. It’s in technology, up ahead, online: where more and more people are finding themselves.