Off To College? Go Virtual Instead!

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The days of applying to, being accepted by, and heading off to college may be nearly over. At least that is the thinking of one influential Fordham University law professor who believes that the day is coming when a significant number of students will do some–if not all–of their learning online.

Will online education disrupt traditional higher education learning practies?

Will online education disrupt traditional higher education learning practies?

Last week, The Christian Science Monitor, echoed a trend that has been gaining steam thanks to a disturbing force–the internet. Just as newspapers have withered in the face of an ostensibly relentless online assault, traditional colleges and universities may be about to encounter similar disruptions.

Surging Higher Education Costs

Dr. Zephyr R. Teachout, the Fordham professor who was the internet organizer for the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign, wrote in a September 2009 opinion piece for The Washington Post that a “radical reordering” of undergraduate education is at hand. She pointed to the cost of college education as being a primary factor for the pending change–costing students twice as much today as it did in the early 1990s and that is factoring in for inflation.

At some point families and students may say “enough” to uncontrollable higher education costs and look for other options. Also, families who have been long locked out of college (such as the poor) know that possessing academic credentials is the key to landing good jobs in the 21st century.

Christian Science Monitor staff writer Gregory M. Lamb noted that online schools as well as traditional institutions with online options have educated millions of students via internet classes, but even those classes may be priced beyond the ability of some students to afford.

À la carte Classes

One new model emerging on the scene is being touted by StraighterLine.com, a company who “provides students with a new option for required college courses built on the expertise of seasoned, respected and proven educators and partners.”

Those educators and partners include McGraw-Hill for course content, Blackboard for a learning management system and Ed Map for an online bookstore. Partner colleges include Charter Oak State College, Fort Hays State University, Lake City Community College, and Potomac College.

Together, these parties allow prospective students to take one course at a time from any of the partner schools right online for a set price: just $99 per month. That fee includes ten hours of 1-to-1 instructional support, if desired. A Course Advisor is made available, a person who can be reached by phone for guidance. Students can mix and match courses between participating colleges.

The New Model?

Whether the StraighterLine model takes off or not is something that will be revealed over time. However, given that the internet has changed the way that people do just about everything, why not encourage the same for higher education?

Perhaps the best solution for future educational needs is a hybrid model suggested by Lamb: students will take some classes online, others at brick and mortar institutions. Clearly, most students crave face to face contact with their classmates and professors, something that just isn’t the same even when everyone is logged on at the same time.

Adv. – No matter where you’re planning to attend school next year, you’ll want to weigh all of your options first. Technical school v. community college. University v. college. Online education v. night or weekend school or traditional path.

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Categories: Online Education