Trends in Online Education

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By Jennifer Wegerer

Online education has come a long way. Critics may once have considered getting an online degree a second-tier alternative to classroom education, but in truth, its time has arrived.

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.

The rising popularity of online learning will continue to spark studies and enhancements in the industry that will, ideally, put quality education in the hands of students all over the world.

What to Expect from Online Education

With so many Americans pursuing online options for their higher education, what trends can the public expect from the industry to meet the mounting demand for online education? Here are a few things to look for in the next year:

  • More Online Degrees and Programs—Traditional universities continue to "spin off" their own virtual or online universities. Examples include: Colorado Technical University Online, The George Washington University – Online, and the University of Illinois Global Campus. By offering students a network of online degree programs to choose from, these universities further their goal of expanding access to college courses to students across the globe, giving themselves an edge in a highly competitive market.
  • Measuring Student Success—For educators and industry experts who perceive the value of expanding the availability of education through technology, ensuring student success in online education courses has become a top priority. Through continued research, different universities and companies have joined forces to uncover strategies that will make earning an education online an increasingly rewarding experience for students.
  • Students Taking Charge of Their Learning—Instead of a lecture-style method of teaching, online university instructors will practice more non-linear, self-directed approaches. As a result, students will become responsible for their own learning, gain more meaning out of their courses and perform at higher levels.
  • Emphasizing Job-related Competencies—Shifting from teaching theoretical concepts to providing career-oriented training, online schools will deliver knowledge, experience and skills directly related to specific jobs. In turn, students will learn the competencies that matter most to employers and will leave school with a tremendous advantage in finding employment in their field of choice.
  • Meeting the Needs of Mothers Pursing Career Training—In a recent survey, American InterContinental University found that three-fourths of mothers with children under 17 want to earn a bachelor's or graduate-level degree. With the flexibility that an online degree program presents, mothers seeking to start or finish their degrees have extensive options in choosing a program, allowing them to design their schedules to accommodate responsibilities to family and jobs outside the home.
  • Making Online Education More Affordable—Students in the United States have access to a wide variety of financial aid options they can apply toward an online education. For example, grants, scholarships, tax incentives and loan-forgiveness programs can dramatically decrease any financial burden students incur during the course of their online program.