Whether or not online colleges will take over traditional schools remains to be seen. After all, it appears that both forms of learning can co-exist successfully as they have been doing for the last several years. What is clear is that large numbers of students are opting to enroll in distance learning programs offered at accredited online colleges and predominantly brick and mortar postsecondary schools. Furthermore, some schools with the highest student enrollments are online colleges and universities.
Although there are free distance learning courses that you can take through your employers or online colleges, to earn undergraduate and/or graduate degrees you generally must pay tuition, even at the cheapest online college. The amount of tuition you pay to attend online colleges is generally the same as what you would pay to take classroom courses at brick and mortar schools. According to the National Center for Education Statistics during the 2007 – 2008 academic calendar year nearly 4.3 million undergraduate students enrolled in an online course. This number represented 20 percent of the undergraduate student population at the time.
In a Department of Education study mentioned in Inside Higher Ed’s June 29, 2009 “The Evidence on Online Learning” article, it’s reported that college students taking blended courses (course that require students to access the Internet to complete a portion of the course and attend classroom sessions to complete other portions) performed better than students who took fully online courses or only classroom courses. A reason for the success of distance learning programs was linked to the amount of time students taking online courses spend on school projects versus students taking classroom courses. The report states that, “Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning.” It could be that when the classroom bell sounds, students stop focusing on their coursework until they sit down to study. On the other hand, students taking online courses might continue to focus on their coursework until they feel they have a firm grasp of the material.
Choosing to Enroll in Online Colleges
Students, particularly adult continuing education students, enroll in online colleges for a variety of reasons:
- To gain more flexibility in their daily schedules
- Get the time to care for their families and continue their education without having to travel to and from classes (which can also eliminate the need to hire a babysitter)
- Avoid having to commute in inclement weather
- Take advantage of expanding technologies
- Earn degrees at an accelerated pace
- Get the chance to take college courses regardless of where they are in the world (e.g. while away on business trips)
Despite the benefits of attending online colleges, a set of personal skills are needed to perform well as you complete distance learning courses. For example, self-discipline, time and project management skills, the ability to motivate and encourage yourself and focus and vision are skills that can help you to succeed while you take online college courses. The desire to conduct your own research work and write original college essays and term papers can also be pluses that cause you to earn top scores in your courses. Good news is that these same skills are generally needed to get hired and excel on a job.