Although the very first online courses were offered in 1989, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that online education was truly a viable option for most students. Today, there are nearly seven million students who study online rather than on a traditional college campus.
However, the way that online education operates is far different today than it was just a decade ago. Part of that is a direct result of technological advances, but it can also be attributed to a greater acceptance and approval of online study.
Online Degrees are More Widely Accepted
Perhaps the biggest difference in online education over the past decade is how accepted online degrees are by the public at large. Just 10 years ago, some employers may have looked down on online certifications and degrees as less worthy than those earned in a traditional setting. Today, however, those views are widely regarded as outdated.
Online degrees are treated as equal to any other degree, making them an obvious choice for anyone with a busy schedule or a rural address far away from a college campus.
One-Third of Students Study at Least Partly Online
Another major change is simply the number of students who study online. As many as one-third of students have studied at least in part through an online program.
Students may enroll in an online university for their master’s degree or enroll in an online summer program to supplement their full-time bachelor’s degree at a traditional campus.
Hybrid Courses Popular Even on Traditional College Campuses
Hybrid courses, also called blended courses, are programs where much of the work is done online, but the curriculum is supplemented with in-person training, lectures or exams.
For students that want the best of both worlds, this can be a wonderful option that an increasing number of colleges are offering. You might only need to visit the campus once per month, or you may spend an intensive week at the end of the program on campus.
Self-Paced Courses on the Rise
Many of the first online courses operated in exactly the same way as a traditional college course. There was a designated start time, you took exams on set days and you had to generally follow the original schedule. Today, self-paced courses are a popular alternative. Also called non-concurrent degrees, self-paced programs let you work through material at your own speed.
As long as the work is finished and exams are taken within a set time frame, you can go through the material as quickly or as slowly as you like and watch lectures whenever it is most convenient for you.
MOOCs are Increasing in Popularity
It would be a mistake not to mention one of the most significant changes in online learning over the last decade: the MOOC. A Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, is often free, and it lets students pick and choose subjects that interest them. Most MOOCs are not available for college credit, although that is changing, but it widens the educational opportunities for anyone with Internet access.
Online education has changed drastically over the past decade, making it easier than ever to pursue the degree you deserve whatever your circumstances.