Class Facts

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There are plenty of good reasons to get a university degree online: economy, flexibility and earning your degree from an accredited institution on your own terms are just three of them.

Here are some interesting statistics and facts about online degree programs that will highlight and showcase the trends toward online colleges—and give you some food for thought on the many advantages of earning your degree and achieving your career goals this way.

Students Flock to Virtual College Fairs

Here's a new trend in college admissions: offering prospective college students a virtual way to interact with school recruiters and admissions directors.

According to the Albany Times Union, recruiters generally travel 40 weeks out of the year to promote their campuses to students and their parents, and the toll of travel is costly, with the results often mixed. To address this challenge, Albany's Union College has joined such prestige schools as Yale and Dartmouth by turning to the Internet to promote their university online through College, which gives students access to college "booths" where currently-enrolled students and school admissions administrators will answer their questions.

With college education online thriving, it's a natural step for education online admissions processes to move into the virtual reality arena, giving more students the opportunity to find the right university online in which to earn a college degree.

High School Diplomas For Sale Online

It may be becoming more popular to get a high school diploma online, but just as online high school gains legs, so do the diploma mills that are ready and waiting to exploit students looking for a quality online education experience. A recent search on the Internet returned several "fast track" diploma programs that promise you can earn your GED, high school diploma or earn life experience credit—even asking you to pay a registration fee upfront.

To protect your education investment, make sure the high school diploma online program you choose is accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency. There are several online high schools that offer a full diploma program and are accredited by one of the following six regional accreditation associations:

  • The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • The Northwest Association of Accredited Schools
  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges

If you're in doubt about your high school diploma online program, check to see if the accrediting agency is approved by the National Education Association (NEA).

Pell Grants Spell Opportunity

Pell Grants, once known as Basic Education Opportunity Grants, were first sponsored by Claiborne Pell in 1973. Pell, a Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, argued that educating prisoners while they were still in jail resulted in a 65 percent drop in repeat offense rates once the prisoner was paroled. Today, Pell Grants are generally reserved for traditional and online school undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelor's or a professional degree. This needs-based grant, which does not have to be repaid, is considered the foundation of federal financial aid, to which additional federal and non-federal aid can be added.

Corporate America Gets Online Class Conscious

Corporate America is using online learning—in and out of the office—for the retraining of 50 million American workers, says the U.S. Distance Learning Association. Many major corporations have found they can save millions of dollars every year using distance learning to educate their employees. They also found that these employees are trained more effectively and efficiently using online training instead of traditional classroom methods.

Women Won Over by Online Education

In an article in Inside Higher Ed, author Steve Kolowich tells us that, as in other areas of higher education, women dominate the fully online college space, at 70% of the online student body. Online education is making a difference for working women and single mothers who choose distance learning as their education preference. Flexibility is critical for women, as they struggle to juggle work, childcare and household duties. Online degree programs allow them to schedule their coursework for the evening—or even during a child's naptime.

The Online Times They Are E-Changing

Gone is the perception of the online student as a lone soul in a quiet nook poring over a computerized lesson. In an article in CITE Journal titled, "The Online Learner: Characteristics and Pedagogical Implications," author Nada Dabbagh expands upon that classic notion of the average online education student as an "independent, place-bound, adult, self-motivated, disciplined self-starter and goal-oriented learner." With the majority of undergraduates (82.4 percent) taking at least one course online, the online education model is shifting from the perception of an independent experience to a dynamic, collaborative environment that draws on the newest technology and Web-based social networking communities that are largely driven by today's youth market. Online education is changing with the times, and active interaction between students, teachers, and the larger virtual world is an essential ingredient in today's online classroom.

Online Oddities

We all know you can get your bachelor's degree in clinical psychology online or pursue your MBA, but what about these strange courses? The University of Phoenix Online compiled a list of some unusual class choices that definitely won't lead to a traditional career. The following five courses—which aren't part of their curriculum—were on their list:

  • The Art of Walking
  • Learning from YouTube
  • The American Vacation
  • Feel the Force: How to Train the Jedi Way
  • Star Trek and Religion

Plato Wasn't Just a Philosopher

The first computer-based education system, PLATO (which stood for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operation), was built by the University of Illinois in 1960. The system didn't see wide usage as an instruction platform until the early 1970s when it was taken over by Control Data Corporation and began to be sold commercially to schools, public institutions and corporations. Though PLATO was ultimately considered a financial failure, it still managed to evolve through four decades of use as a computer-based learning tool—until the plug was finally pulled in 2006 on the last remaining system. Nevertheless, PLATO pioneered many of the concepts in use on the Internet today, such as online forums, message boards, email and online chat rooms.

2.5 Million Online Students Can't Be Wrong

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are now over 5.5 million students taking at least one online course or who are enrolled in an online degree program. Clearly, online education is here to stay, and colleges are looking for new and creative ways to make their programs more flexible for today's "post-traditional" student.

Online College Will Evolve

Ed Hoff, a Chief Learning Officer at IBM, writes in his article "Learning in the 21st Century: A Brave New World" that in our globally networked world several technologies will be incorporated into online learning. These include search engines, blogs, podcasts, Web 2.0 applications, and soon virtual worlds such as Second Life will be used.

More Education for New Jobs

Who would have thought in 1976, the year of our country's bicentennial, that so many jobs today would be in the field of computers? It's hard to predict where the job market will go, but surely this trend will continue. And what will be the in-demand jobs of the future? Regardless, people need the required education to become computer programmers and web developers, but also nurses, medical assistants and accountants. It's anyone's guess what the best jobs will be in the future. But you can learn the needed skills for these jobs from ever-more-popular online colleges.

U.S. Online Education Has Potential for International Students

ThinkEquity Partners studied online education in the U.S. and concluded that:

  • For each foreign student physically studying in the U.S., three-to-five foreign students would use an online degree program if they had the resources.
  • The worldwide demand for online higher education will top $215 billion by 2025.
  • There are a potential 1.6 million international online learning student candidates.