Ten Years of Online Education: The Bumpy Road to Better Days

Ten Years of Online Education: The Bumpy Road to Better Days

During the last 5-10 years, the ways people consume information changed significantly. Thanks to online, quality education have become accessible to everyone with the internet connection. Meanwhile, it was not easy to reach the level of online education we have today.

In the 20th century, the quality of education people received depended mostly on the status of the higher educational institution. Thus, people who attended one of highly expensive Ivy League schools always received significant value together with their degree. However, in some cases, Ivy League education does not pay off and does not always make sense.

But then again, online education is quite a new concept while many brick-and-mortar institutions have invested in their reputation for decades. There are many employers which do not consider online education as something that can be compared to traditional education. However, their attitude changes.

Still, today there is a conflict between for-profit educational institutions and the principle of providing quality education. Some of the for-profit universities have already been suspected of not completely honest or quality practices. Others even faced the consequences such as lawsuits.

In the 1990s many educational institutions offered new and innovative ways to provide education. In 1997, Western Governors University was founded. It offers different online programs and degrees.  Actually, WGU was one of the first online education public initiatives of such scale.

In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its OpenCourseWare program which offers free resources for different courses. This initiative showed that quality learning materials can be accessed online at no expense.

Today, online education has already proven its efficiency as opposed to traditional on-campus programs. Almost every university and college offers online programs. Actually, it is easier to find an institution which offers online programs than the institution which does not. At the same time, cost-effective education resources such as Coursera, StraighterLine and Khan Academy compete with higher education institutions.

The Khan Academy, like OpenCourseWare, does not offer degree programs but offers a big number of free mini-lectures which cover the most major areas of study. StraighterLine offers unlimited access to its programs for $99. With its courses, learners have the possibility to take courses at their own pace without strict schedules and other limitations. The resource is not accredited, but many universities offer accredited courses on the platform.  Coursera was founded in 2012 and turned into a very popular online education resource. It provides online courses offered by colleges and universities all over the world. Many of these courses offer verified certificates.

In addition to courses and degree programs, many education tools, for example, originality checker, are available online.  They help to check student’s essays against many sources – the Internet, private repositories of files,  publications, other’s student works and show links to the sources which were used during the writing process and may not be included in bibliography or references. Using this kind of tools can significantly decrease student's cheating cases and make them take assignments more seriously.   

It seems that traditional education institutions try to keep pace and provide online programs of their own. Many prestigious schools still have to provide degrees exclusively online. At the same time, some of them offer programs which combine online and traditional on-campus learning.

In general, the future of online education in bright. Still, there are many challenges which online universities have to overcome to match the quality of traditional on-campus programs. At the end of the day, online education has one huge advantage — expense. For students, it is much more affordable. At the same time, it promotes the value of student independence.  With this in mind, there will be no surprise if higher education students choose online programs over traditional ones. 

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