First and foremost, online graduate education is on the rise (1). This has been true for the past 10 years and shows little sign of stopping. Where education used to function primarily to give prospective employees a marketability advantage, it now may serve as a prerequisite for any number of jobs.
The second trend is that colleges and universities across the country are expanding their online programs. With the rise of technologically fluent students as well as an ever increasing IT force, focusing more capital and human resources into the online sphere is only practical. In recent years, more and more colleges and graduate schools have turned to online education, with even more planning to expand in the near future.
The third trend is tied closely to the first. Lifetime education is, generally speaking, becoming the status quo in today’s society. And not only are older students uninterested in taking in-house classes with kids who could be their children, they see the price point and the pliability of the online graduate course schedule as enormous advantages. These older students often have a great deal more academic credits and experience on hand before embarking on further—which is to say graduate—education, and the convenience of the online platform allows them to continue seeking education throughout their career.
The fourth trend concerns the professorial view of online education. Though many faculty members in U.S. institutions believe that online education has less qualitative value, some see the merits of online higher education. Even with respect to in-house courses, professors are more willing than ever to engage students online. This has been true of emails for some time, but other programs like Blackboard are staking their claim in the academic world. With the explosion of technological gadgets and systems, students and professors alike are beginning to sense the ever changing academic scene. Though many professors do not believe that traditional teaching methods will ever be overtaken by distance education, they all agree that it will become more and more prevalent.
The fifth and final trend mentioned here has to do with the introduction of MOOCs, or massive open online courses. These enormous online courses have as many benefits as possible downfalls. Tuition, generally speaking, is not getting any cheaper these days, and in a down economy any means by which one can attain high credentials at a low cost is the best means.
The less attractive aspect to MOOCs is the inevitable quality problem. How can the individuals in a large class get sufficient attention needed from one professor and maybe a student aid? And what about the work load for MOOC professors relative to other classes? Especially with regard to graduate school, the student to professor ratio is one of the most attractive elements for prospect students. For some programs ratios are as small as 2:1, guaranteeing that students get sufficient attention (2). But what about a grad program that offers a 50:1 ratio, 100: 1, or even 200:1 and above? Does that even count as graduate school in any traditional sense? These are hard questions for both institutions and students to face.
For students, however, program quality, financial aid, and employer acceptance ranked as their top concerns about online education, according to an earlier study by Learning House. The online education company surveyed 1,500 students either enrolled or planning to enroll in an online degree program.
Written by University of Pennsylvania graduate and freelance writer Kevin Hughes and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of GradSchools.com. To see more of the wealth of opportunities offered by online graduate school programs, find out here.