Many people scoff at online education these days as a low quality alternative to traditional educational settings. While there are some proprietors of online education that lack in quality of instruction, some highly respected universities have adopted online education as a way to educate their student body.
Indeed, offering an online component to university courses isn’t a new idea. In the 2006-2007 school year, 66% of postsecondary learning institutions included in U.S. federal financial aid programs were already reporting that they offered some form of online education. Even some top business schools are making entire degree programs available online. Many of these offerings exist because the online delivery mechanism is affordable and effective.
But is this a trend caused by a slow economy, or is it a sign of a broader direction that education will move this century? There is cause to believe that it is the latter.
A 2009 report released by the Department of Education found that students who studied in online learning environments performed better than students who were receiving face-to-face instruction. This study gathered information from 99 independent studies which took place over a twelve span. The report concluded that on average, students engaged in online learning ranked in the 59th percentile, while those in a classroom setting were in the 50th percentile. According to the New York Times, this information signals that online education will grow in the years to come. The implications of this study are profound, since it seems that no one had previously believed online education was substantively superior to traditional settings.
These trends and research findings point towards the growing prominence of online education in the decades to come. Being more affordable, and more effective, they will prove irresistible to educators.
Already, proprietors of test prep companies offer their courses 100% online. One LSAT Prep Course offers only online LSAT courses, explaining in a recent interview, that the online format “allows [the company] to cut down our overhead and offer LSAT prep for the lowest prices on the market. Plus, it allows us to focus more on our content, rather than worrying about the logistics of a classroom course.” This reasoning will undoubtedly drive more for-profit entities into the online fray. Eventually, we may even see all of our non-profit educational entities – from the public high school, to prestigious Universities turn all of their instruction over to the interweb.