An Online Education

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What’s the deal with online learning? I mean, look, I’m part of this generation, and I understand that a lot of what we do is online. Submitting work online, getting grades online, and interacting with my university online makes perfect sense to me. However, I also know that full-fledged online universities have mixed reputations. I’ve heard that for-profit colleges, like the ones found online, can be really shady. Is that true, or is that outdated? Is it possible to get a great education online? Experts, please explain!

We live our entire lives online these days: Americans spend an average of 24 hours a week online. So, why shouldn’t we learn online, too? There’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t, actually, because learning online, and even earning degrees via the web, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in 2018.

That’s not to say that you haven’t heard many bad things from those who don’t understand how such a thing is possible, though! No doubt you have heard more than your fair share of negative opinions on the subject. However, you seem to be comparing two things that are not really the same, regardless of the specific context: for-profit universities and online universities.

Learning online has been a staple of traditional universities for years now, as you yourself pointed out. The number of students taking online courses increased by 150% between 1998 and 2008, and it has only continued to grow in the 2010s, an era in which we seem to be constantly online and connected via our smartphones and mobile devices. Strictly online universities have been with us for a while now, too. These universities are wonderful options for those of us with busy schedules and smaller budgets, because traditional brick-and-mortar universities may not be a plausible solution for everyone.

There are at least some online universities that truly do make great options. There’s no denying that there is a controversy surrounding for-profit universities, nor can it be denied that many such universities exist mostly or entirely online. In fact, nonprofit online universities are among those seeking to expose the issues with for-profit schools, which can include aggressive tactics that lead students to take on too much debt, or create a gateway for misallocation of tuition resources, and more.

However, there are also plenty of online universities that are on the level. You can get undergraduate degrees online, or go to get a bona fide degree; or you can even get degrees in areas you would never think would be online, for example, a school counselor online degree. You can go to graduate school and earn degrees from trusted universities that exist either entirely or only partly online. Low-residency and entirely remote programs can be perfectly legitimate options.

So, what’s the deal with online learning? In a nutshell, it’s a perfectly legitimate part of the higher education system in our country, and abroad. While many critics question for-profit universities and the value of their degrees, there are virtually no observers decrying online programs from major universities, and there are plenty of non-profit online universities out there, too. It pays to do the research when considering online schooling, but there’s no reason to avoid it!

“I believe that it is higher education’s purpose and calling to keep open the door to the American dream.” – Gordon Gee

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