Monday, August 17, 2009

Newsweek: Online schools are booming

The Newsweek article titled, "The Sound of One Hand Clicking:
Online schools are booming, thanks to their convenience, low cost, and improved quality
" accurately captures the shift toward online friendliness in higher education. Universities are recognizing that students and working professionals are asking themselves, why go to college when college can come to us in a convenient, affordable, high quality way? A couple segments from the article:

Once targeted at older, working adults, distance learning has moved into the education mainstream at stunning speed over the past couple of years, as technology allows ever-richer, more-interactive learning experiences online—and as college costs continue to rise and classrooms are packed to capacity.For traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, that has meant a scramble to enter a lucrative market that used to be the exclusive territory of for-profit institutions such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University (which, like NEWSWEEK, is owned by The Washington Post Company).

"The stigma is gone," says Phillips (founder and CEO of, a service that ranks online learning institutions) "Online learning has reached mass cultural acceptance. It's no longer the ugly stepsister of the higher-education world."

Using videos, podcasts, live chats, Webcams, and wikis, educators increasingly see online learning as a way to engage the videogame generation with pedagogy that feels more like entertainment than drudgery. Students in the new homeland-security master's degree program at the University of Connecticut this fall, for example, will have coursework that resembles Grand Theft Auto: dwelling in a cybercity called San Luis Rey plagued with suicide bombers, biochemical attacks, and other disasters.

Another important factor that has closed the prestige gap is the tight integration of online programs into their host institutions. When UMass launched UMassOnline in 2001, it used the same admission standards, the same faculty, the same curricula—and it awarded students degrees indistinguishable from those given to campus-going counterparts. The vision of UMassOnline as a seamless division of the university worked because "it fit with the culture of the institution," says Wilson, who was the CEO of UMassOnline until 2003, when he became the president of UMass. The venture has also been extremely profitable—UMassOnline earned $46.8 million in 2008.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

I don't find this article surprising at all. As the demand for education grows, universities will continue to embrace as online education as a means of increasing access. Online education is still fairly young; as universities gain more experience using technology, I can see the importance of face to face interactions greatly decreasing.
- Natalie Raven