Millions of people buy their music, stay in touch with friends, and find the best place to eat dinner online. So it should come as no surprise that online education and the number of Americans taking higher education courses on the Internet is booming, according to an informative new infographic released by Ashford University, a leader in innovative higher education.
More than 6.1 million Americans were enrolled in at least one online education course during the fall 2010 term, which was 560,000 more than the previous year’s online education count, according to the research. Online education enrollments are growing at a rate of 10%, far faster than the two-percent growth seen overall in higher education student populations, the analysis found.
Many students, such as those looking to change careers, working full-time jobs, or juggling family obligations while going back to school, may find that online education is a good fit for their needs. These students are free to focus on their studies independently and at a more flexible pace, without the many distractions commonly found on college campuses.
The online education trend is not reserved for smaller or less prestigious universities. Some of the nation’s top universities are investing in online education courses offered through web-based educational platforms like edX, an open online course platform founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to offer university-level classes for free online but without earning official university credit.
Students at Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, Duke University, Brown University, and the University of Texas, among other centers of higher learning, can now take non-credit courses online – free of charge.
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For colleges and universities struggling to keep up with the rising costs of traditional education, offering online education courses makes good sense. Instead of building lecture halls, dormitories, and other expensive infrastructure to house new students, university administrators can save money and more quickly offer online education courses to students who can simply log on from home or other locations thousands of miles away.
The global reach of online education opens up the potential for higher education to millions of people, particularly those in developing nations where top-quality education is not widely available. By extending the option of taking higher education courses online to these corners of the world, which may lack the funding and infrastructure to support their own institutes of higher learning, online education can help bridge the widening gap between the haves and the have nots.
The Digital Online Education Student
So who are all these people signing up for online education? Ashford’s research found that most are women (67%) and between ages 25 and 34 (30%). Most – nearly half – say their primary motivation for enrolling in online degree programs is to advance in their current careers. Another 26% are primarily motivated to change careers while another 12% say they are taking online classes to keep up to date in their current career.
In response to this boom in online education, 65% of higher education institutions say that online education is a critical part of their long-term strategy, according to the research.
Technology Makes Online Education Effective
As more students log on to learn, mobile, digital, and social media are evolving to not only make online education possible, but extremely effective. For example, U.S. publishers now earn more money from e-books circulated online than from printing hardcover editions of textbooks. Also, advances in social media and other mobile technologies have made online education a viable alternative to traditional classroom learning, Ashford’s research found.
Online education is primed to emerge as a dominant force in learning. No longer seen as an alternative form of learning utilized by a few, the field is transforming into the standard mode of learning for the masses.