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Not Your Mom's Online Degree - Seven Ways Online Education is Changing

Apr 8, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Online education has changed a great deal since the 1990’s. In the past, online education was one-dimensional—offering written course materials with very little instructor interaction and few or no opportunities to meet other students. Today, class materials may be delivered in a wide variety of formats—and you’re much more likely to get the benefits of meeting and interacting with your peers as well as your instructor. Here are just a few ways online education has changed.

It’s more credible

Distance education has been around for a long time. But early distance education courses were mostly done through correspondence, with no instructor interaction and sometimes no graded exams. It’s no wonder these programs weren’t viewed the same way as a complete traditional education. And when distance education programs began appearing on the web in the 1990’s, they were mostly viewed with suspicion—because, like older correspondence courses, most programs didn’t deliver the same kind of rigorous education that a traditional college classroom did.

That’s changing. Online education has now been around for over 20 years, and it’s gaining in credibility. Online education providers have made many
advances in course delivery, with the aim of providing a high quality education
that serves graduates well in the real world. Now, many colleges—even some
ivy leagues—offer some kind of option for online education. This has made
online education more legitimate in the eyes of employers and
academic communities as a whole.

Man and Computer

Online education has made a lot of positive changes since its inception. Today, you can earn an online degree in a wide variety of fields-from an Associate's degree to an MBA.



It caters to different learning styles

In the past, distance education has been delivered in written form—and assignments consisted mostly of reading and written exercises and exams. Today, technology allows online education to be delivered to serve a wide variety of different learning styles—with online podcasts, video lectures, interactive activities and games, and group learning environments available. You may be asked to deliver your assignments in the form of anything from a written paper to an online video, a complete developed website, or an Excel spreadsheet. In addition, you can speak with your teacher via online conferencing or chat technologies—and get one-on-one and group instruction when you need it.

It’s available in a range of fields

In the past, your selection for online degree programs was limited. Now, you can earn a wide variety of degrees and credentials—from professional certifications all the way up to Masters and Doctorate degrees. Students can study art, business, science, math, marketing, and much more—your choices are as diverse at some schools as they are through a traditional program. Chances are, if you want to study it, there’s a school that offers an online degree for it.

It’s becoming more tightly regulated

In the past, distance education was not strongly regulated. However, these days many online universities are accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional schools—assuring that online educators adhere to the same academic standards that most traditional schools are held to. In addition, for-profit schools—which are heavily invested in online education, although not online education programs are for-profit—are now facing much heavier regulations at the federal level governing business practices, tuition and student debt levels. These regulations will hopefully improve for-profit business practices and make online education as a whole more credible.

It’s highly social

In the past, being a student in a distance education program meant studying alone. These days, however, you’re encouraged to be social—and many online programs base your grade at least partially on your class participation. There are many ways to get the support of your peers and instructors in class through distance education, from online chat to email and discussion forums.

Online education has made a lot of positive changes since its inception. Today, you can earn an online degree in a wide variety of fields—from an Associate’s degree to an MBA. And employers are looking at online degrees much more favorably now than in the past. Many employers favor online degrees for their employees, because the class schedule is less likely to interfere with the employee’s work—and some employers will even assist with tuition. If you’re interested in online education, it’s never been a better time to think about earning your degree.


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