How Brick-and-Mortar Colleges are Embracing Online Learning

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The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that I’m going to get a graduate degree online. I’m graduating soon, but I don’t think I’m done with education for life. However, I also don’t believe I want to go back to classes on a college campus anytime soon. I’d like to spend a few years in the working world, and then fit an online education into my schedule.

However, my parents just don’t get it. They say that I’ll have trouble getting hired, unless I have the name of a “real” school on my diploma. What can I tell them to make them understand?

Your plan sounds perfectly sound, and it’s unfortunate that your parents don’t seem to see the benefits of it. However, it’s also understandable, since your parents are from a different generation, and the rise of online education has only increased in recent years.

It wasn’t long ago that online education was rare. Early online universities seemed to be modern versions of correspondence courses, at best, and scams, at worse. Then came the growth. In the years between 2012 and 2014, the number of students taking at least once course online surged from 1.6 to 5.8 million students. It’s not just colleges, either. Online education is on the rise everywhere.

There’s one key element of this growth that may help your parents understand just how valuable an online degree really is. That’s the involvement of traditional brick-and-mortar universities in online education. More of the world’s top prestigious universities offer courses, and even entire degrees, online.

In fact, it’s been this way for some time. Elite schools have been offering online degrees since the 1990s. News stories once treated such programs as curiosities, and the public once readily associated online learning with for-profit online-only colleges, and the questionable reputations that went with them. However, that’s changing. The current educational landscape is full of online programs from brick-and-mortar institutions.

Look at Merrimack College, which offers courses in business, data science, and many other subjects online. If you’re on the fence between studying business analytics vs. data analytics, both career paths offer the opportunity to develop technical skills and provide for substantial salary growth over the course of a career. Nowadays, there are more opportunities than ever for professionals to accelerate their careers and learning with advanced degrees. Masters degrees of all sorts can be acquired online, often on your own schedule.

The increase in the number of brick-and-mortar giants in the online learning space hasn’t chased online-native universities out of the picture, either. If anything, it has helped sharpen their quality, and lend them legitimacy. The competition between brick-and-mortar universities, online universities, and open online courses is real.

So, you can tell your parents that there are plenty of “real” schools in the online learning space, and that their presence helps make it clear that online schools are real schools. You should, of course, choose your school carefully, and avoid questionable for-profit institutions. Make no mistake, however, that online learning is normal, legitimate, and likely to become even more important in the future.

“There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.” – Author Unknown

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