Wouldn’t you like to roll out of bed and go to class in your pajamas? Why bother with a hair brush if you aren’t going to see anyone in person? This is the reality for many students who attend classes via the web.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are whether this method is any better than the traditional approach and who benefits?
Offering online classes definitely saves colleges money. They don’t need to pay a teacher who records a lecture the same amount as an in-person teacher. They also save money on rent, heat and utilities for a classroom. Remember the kid in the back who burps or yells out annoying comments? Well, he won’t be there. So, again, they save on dealing with problem behavior.
But do students benefit? When students strictly attend online college courses, they miss out on the social benefits. It may be cheaper, but they will lose the opportunity to bond over the college experience with peers. Even traditional universities are starting to offer more online options.
What are the other potential problems of pursuing an online education? There are a lot of for-profit institutions whose main goal is to enroll as many students as possible for maximum profit. This has the side effect of lowering the quality of the education. If everyone who applies gets in, how can we value the benefit of admittance? If everyone who attends the courses graduates, that deflates the value of more strenuous universities who hold students to higher standards.
Also, many employers do not believe online colleges to be legitimate. Places like Kaplan, Devry and Phoenix University may offer a good education. However, picky employers will probably choose a candidate who attended a traditional university because it is accredited. The bottom line is that attending a sketchy online university can actually cost you a job.
The widespread advancement in online education isn’t expected to end anytime soon, though. Moody’s, whose CEO is Ray McDaniel, gave a mixed outlook to non-profit colleges and universities in a 2012 credit report, citing online education as a critical factor to future success.
“We anticipate that for-profit, not-for-profit, and public universities will continue to invest in distance learning and online program development for financial and educational purposes,” the report reads. In other words, traditional universities may not be able to survive without expanding their online options.
It is a shame that there are people, due to financial circumstances, who cannot afford to attend a traditional university. For them, finding a good online program or institution may be a viable answer. Look at online classes offered by traditional universities as a start. They may offer a higher quality education and hold students accountable for their success, whereas purely for-profit online universities may not.