Wish you could watch your friends watch a show and they could ask you for help too? Even if you’re Netflix?
How Is Online Learning Beneficial
In case you didn’t notice, everybody loves online education. But even with your reverence for online classes, are they actually any good?
“Online learning has become the new one-size-fits-all way to teach people everything about academia,” says Jeff Demos, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kavali Academy. “Online learning gives colleges the opportunity to extend their existing capabilities with the commitment to affordability.”
Or are they just expensive? And how good are they really? Here’s a primer on these forces that force us to decide whether online education is really a boon or a bane for higher education.
The Power of Choice
Every year, nearly 20 million students enroll in courses offered online. The popular word “online” originates from the school of “undeletables,” a medical practice started in the early 1900s that gave terminally ill patients the ability to receive treatment from outside medical experts. It was a revolutionary innovation, and the case for online education is as good, if not better.
Concerns about academic quality and tenure are far more prevalent in higher education today. Universities aren’t flexible enough to adjust their demands to the needs of their students. The demands for higher graduation rates and secure employment far exceed the opportunities available for the majority of students. And the norms of the traditional campus are inflexible, institutionalized, and unresponsive to student needs.
“Online learning helps open new possibilities in education for everyone,” says Demos. “Students can teach themselves if they want to. They can tailor their educational experience according to their preferences and their schedules.” In short, they get to find the curriculum that meets their most pressing needs, without having to go back to the barricades to craft an unviable course proposal.
The Dismal State of College Admission
According to Demos, colleges are looking for new ways to recruit students, enroll as many students as possible, and save money while doing so. “In the past,” says Demos, “the lure of advanced degrees were generally the draw that enticed students to enter the field.” However, “the commoditization of higher education has left fewer new products on the table for universities to offer, and therefore colleges have to be creative to differentiate themselves.”
This means offering new options to students who want to learn. “Diverging educational models always pose interesting questions,” says Demos. “More and more, online institutions in K-12 are connecting with children through the digital sphere. Soon they will be educating college students too.” With such a wide range of students who want to apply online courses to their educational needs, it’s clear how online learning can affect student diversity.
In fact, online learning impacts student diversity more positively than traditional schooling, says Demos. “It helps colleges diversify their student bodies. If higher education becomes more inclusive, it becomes more competitive.”
Online Learning vs. On-Campus Ed
How “private” online learning can be when compared to on-campus education is another question worth asking.
Online learning doesn’t actually cost universities more money. In fact, it can help them earn more money. As Demos puts it, there are only a few facilities that universities can’t necessarily afford to update. “There are a few areas within an institution that require significant capital investment. What they get out of online is flexibility.”
With online curricula, universities can do their homework faster, which provides them with a more competitive edge. “It’s not like it’s 1995,” says Demos. “Everything is evolving faster than ever before.”
As online education continues to rise, it will open access for more students from all corners of the world. We are at the very beginning of a new era of technological innovation that will reshape higher education. The benefits of online education reach far beyond income, retention, and prestige. By helping to foster inclusion, it can help give all students a fair shot at the American dream.