Over the past 5 years, there has been a surge in the number of online degrees and certificates being offered by universities. There are two reasons to it. Firstly, more and more universities today are offering professional certificates instead of degrees. According to GeorgeTown University Center, professional degrees are a $140 billion business which was hitherto catered to primarily by community colleges. Most of the students who take up certificates are in mid-career positions who can afford the costs unlike the typical degree students.
The second reason why there is a surge is because of the booming internet education industry. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is a massive industry where an unlimited number of students are provided education via the internet. Examples of such courses include those offered on websites like Udemy and Khan Academy. Besides these services offered by non-educational organizations, regular universities too offer MOOCs today. In the United States, MOOC-based degrees and certificates are offered by a number of universities including Stanford, University of Michigan, Princeton and GeorgeTown.
A number of courses, particularly those targeting entrepreneurs and business owners are now available online. For example, a Business essentials and planning course offered by Butler university extends over a 32 week period and is targeted at mid-career professionals.
According to a research conducted by Babson Survey Research Group, the growth rate of online degrees has been on the rise. In 2003, just around 2 million students enrolled in online courses (11.7% of total enrollments). By 2011, this number had surged well beyond 7 million (32% of total enrollments). In terms of perception of education quality too, online courses seem to be improving.
The Babson Survey of academic leaders in 2003 revealed than 15% of them felt online courses had a superior quality than traditional courses. By 2012, this figure had breached 20% figure with another 60% opining that these courses at least had the same quality as regular courses.
However, one of the biggest hurdles to greater popularity of online courses appear to be in their overall acceptance. The survey showed that the percentage of academics accepting online courses as a valuable alternative has stayed around the 25% mark through this past decade.
With wider proliferation of the internet and the general popularity of services like Udemy and Codecademy, it will be interesting to see how much popularity online courses gain over the next decade or two. This could be a defining moment in the way the students of tomorrow gain education. What are your thoughts?