Online education is taking the halls of education by storm. It has opened a floodgate of opportunities for those whose dreams of a college education once seemed far out of reach; and it is a boon for junior colleges and 4-year universities struggling with falling enrollments. Online classes are snapped up quickly during traditional college registration; and accredited for-profit online schools have become business successes.
But what are the reasons for this increasing interest in computer-based distance learning? Here are just a few:
1. Over 3.2 million students are enrolled in online classes; and those who appreciate the benefits of this education option are spreading the good news about it.
2. Traditional colleges and universities benefit financially from an increase in online class enrollment, which has motivated these schools to offer more distance learning options.
3. Numerous businesses provide college tuition reimbursement to their employees and utilize accredited, online schools as an extension of their own employee training programs.
4. Employees enjoy the flexibility of being able to work full-time and study on lunch hours, in the evenings, on weekends or at any other chosen time. Teachers, who enjoy summers and holiday weeks off, have additional time to pursue an online degree.
5. A personal computer, the primary tool for online classes, is easier to own as prices for desktops and laptops have dropped significantly. Also, computers have become increasingly user-friendly; and time-saving, high-speed Internet service is widely available. The majority of U.S. public libraries now offer free computer and Internet access.
6. Last year, the U.S. Federal Government made it easier for schools to add additional online degree programs by passing a bill that modified its previous restrictions on financial aid to colleges and universities that offered more than 50% of their classes online. Now, federal grants and loans are available to students who enroll in accredited schools that primarily offer their classes online.
7. Older adults, parents of young children, the physically disadvantaged, those who travel often, those who are recovering from illness or injury, and others who are unable to attend traditional classes have embraced online classes as the best way to continue their education.
8. Those who study online generally experience a significant amount of interaction with professors and fellow students via e-mails, online chat rooms, video streaming, podcasts, bulletin boards and newly-emerging technologies.
9. Online schools routinely offer extra perks and support to students – such as a personal guidance counselor who is easily accessible throughout the duration of the online degree program, vast online libraries and bookstores that are available 24/7, tutoring services, financial aid application assistance, job placement services beyond graduation, easy-payment plans and graduation ceremonies.
10. The U.S. military encourages its personnel to enroll in online degree programs that supplement the training of their chosen career field. These students generally receive 100% tuition reimbursement for their education and may choose from a variety of approved traditional and online colleges.
Colleges and universities are spending millions of dollars to expand their online degree offerings; and they expect to reach an untapped gold mine of students. These new e-learners, if they are diligent, will enjoy the rewards of increased income, fulfilling jobs and greater career potential. And, of course, enrollment in online education will continue to grow.