One of the upshots of going to graduate school, other than a boost in credentials, is that students can now attend through the ease of online courses. The volume of students attending on-campus graduate courses has gradually decreased over the last few years, with higher volumes of applicants and lower volumes of acceptances. On the other side, however, online graduate programs have grown dramatically over the past decade. This trend is true in general with respect to the online arena. The number of students, graduate and undergraduate, who have taken at least one online course has grown from 1.1 million in 2002 to an estimated 22 million over the next five years.
Most institutions realize that technology is becoming an essential element to the education experience. Off-campus education dates back to the 19th century, with students using snail-mail methods to get their education. With the advent of the Internet, however, snail-mail has fallen to the wayside and the possibilities of the internet have seeped into the academic world. Institutions know that the number of technologically fluent students will only increase over time.
As such, institutions by and large recognize the value of adding online courses to their repertoire. They see the importance of increasing the number of available courses, and the need to respond to the demands of employers and business. They also see the advantage of multiplying degree and certificate programs, and the significance of meeting student needs like, for example, the desire for decreased sitting time, etc. It is only natural that colleges and universities adapt to the ever changing student, financial, and academic scene. The best part for these institutions is that the online platform has the dexterity and range to meet these challenges. The question for many graduate students is whether to invest their time and money into these programs.
Students likewise recognize the value of seeking more education through online means. The flexibility with class scheduling is appealing to older students with families who have time constraints. For a number of students, one online business course from home makes more sense than making time for one in-house business course when you are simply trying to get an introduction to the subject, add extra credentials to their resume, or hoping to quickly and efficiently train an employee.
Of course, some prospective students balk at the notion of taking online courses. Traditional course work appears on the face of it to be more reliable. There is, for example, some debate as to the overall quality of the learning outcomes for students who take online courses contra in-house courses—though some of the debate may subside once institutions begin to pour more and more resources into their online infrastructures, a trend already visible throughout the United States. Online students also have a harder time being disciplined, and many professors think that teaching an online course is more time consuming than teaching a regular, face-to-face course.
Of the postsecondary institutions offering online coursework, however, 83 percent expect their enrollment numbers to increase over the next year—particularly in psychology, social sciences and liberal arts, according to a recent study by theSloan Consortium . Online coursework is still growing and probably will continue to for some time.