The Sloan Consortium, a group of organizations dedicated to quality online education, said in the seventh edition of its annual report on the state of online learning in the US that online enrollment was growing faster than the Total enrollment in higher education shows no signs of slowing down.
According to the report, during the fall semester of 2008, more than 4.6 million students enrolled in at least one online course — a 17 percent increase from the previous year and far outpacing the 1.2 percent growth in the overall higher education student population.
It’s clear that online education is becoming a popular choice for New Age students. However, there is still debate about which is better – online courses or face-to-face courses. Although there is no easy answer, which of the two alternatives will work better for you depends in large part on your circumstances. To get a clearer picture, let’s compare the two educational paths based on some important parameters.
On-line: One of the biggest breakthroughs of online education has been that it has made higher education accessible to many people who, for various reasons, are unable to attend brick-and-mortar schools. In addition, online students are not bound by geographical borders. They can apply to any school of their choice as they can join an online program from anywhere.
Campus: Campus-based education still functions within a fairly rigid structure. From location to accommodation, everything has to be right when considering traditional classroom programs.
On-line: “Graduate mills” are the greatest bane of online education. Diploma mills are fraudulent institutions that sell unaccredited degrees that do not involve serious academic study. It is therefore imperative that students verify credentials from any university that offers online programs. Accredited online degrees are accepted as valid degrees by both academics and employers. There is no better indicator of its validity than the availability of federal student aid to those enrolled in an eligible online degree program at an accredited, Title IV-eligible institution.
Campus: Although there may be some rogue brick and mortar schools, the prevalence of such schools is comparatively lower than substandard or non-accredited online schools. But even if you attend campus-based programs, it’s good to cover your tracks by checking the school’s reputation and accreditation status.
On-line: Various research organizations have statistics to support the growing acceptance of online degrees. Academic leaders, as well as employers, are now recognizing the legitimacy of online programs and tend to treat them on an equal footing with traditional degrees.
Campus: According to some experts, certain programs are less suitable for online-only schools. Campus-based learning is generally recommended for disciplines such as engineering. Programs that require extensive hands-on and hands-on training, or that involve a lot of laboratory work, are better conducted at an in-patient institute.
On-line: This in turn ties in with the question of the validity and acceptance of online degrees. Acceptance of online degrees has increased due to the perceived improvement in the quality of education disbursed through these programs. In fact, many universities have started offering online programs to capture the growing market. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, 66 percent of 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions awarding a Title IV degree reported offering online, hybrid/blended, or other distance learning programs in 2006-07 academic year.
Campus: The quality of education offered by reputable campus-based programs is mostly top-notch. The faculty members are trained and the programs designed by experts are subject to strict quality criteria. However, there is a rising trend where the online degrees offered by an institute are exactly the same in content as the on-campus degrees.
On-line: This is where online education undoubtedly wins. The flexibility offered to online students is unparalleled – be it in terms of learning pace or setting your own schedule. Online degree programs are ideal for professionals or people with other responsibilities. Online programs allow them to strike a better balance between work, home and education.
Campus: Campus-based programs are fairly structured and still operate on rigid schedules. There are set schedules that must be followed and a minimum attendance requirement for most on-campus programs. It is often difficult for people to manage full-time jobs while attending college.
On-line: Online courses are cheaper than traditional courses. By studying online, you also benefit from savings on travel, accommodation, food and textbooks (since study material is available online and costs significantly less).
Campus: The rising cost of college education has long been a concern. However, given the state of the economy, skyrocketing tuition fees for campus programs are discouraging many from pursuing higher education.
Obviously, degree programs, both online and traditional, have their pros and cons. That’s probably why many colleges have now started looking for a hybrid education that combines the best of both worlds. A generous use of technology and a generous degree of flexibility, coupled with top-notch hands-on training and invigorating social interactions – therein lies the future of education!
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Thanks to Scott H C