Growth Of Online Education Slows, But Its Future Remains Rosy

By Staff
October 2, 2009

While online education continues to grow, the rate of increase in online classes is slowing. However, with studies indicating that online instruction improves student achievement, and that it is less expensive for students and educators alike, education will increasingly be provided via the Internet, especially as instructional online technology becomes more innovative.

Reuters reports that online education grew 13% last year, and that nearly 25% of students now take some online college courses. In 2002, only 10% did so. However, the rate of growth in Internet classes is less than in recent years, when online education grew at a rate of 20%.

In an interview reported by the Business Exchange, Richard Garrett of Eduventures expands upon what he believes is happening. He sees continued growth in the number of online degree programs, as opposed to what we have seen previously - namely, increases in individual class offerings. He feels that the stalling point is the current lack of innovation in online learning. "We're still at a pretty rudimentary stage," he says, noting that educators rarely employ video, unique links, or other technological innovations. Once introduced, these advances will allow expansion of online offerings beyond what are now dominated by vocational subjects.

According to the Washington Post, colleges and universities find that offering online classes is less expensive. While a study conducted by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Sloan National Commission on Online Learning found that the time and cost to faculty members who create and teach online classes is more, the total cost to the school itself is less. There is no need to rent classroom space or to provide students with other traditional on-campus benefits. In addition, graduate students, who cost much less than professors, are often used to teach online classes.

While reducing the costs of higher education is incentive enough for the expansion of online education, further reason for growth is implicit in the findings of a U.S. Department of Education study which found that education conducted entirely online was more effective in improving student achievement than traditional face-to-face education. In addition, classes that offer online instruction together with face-to-face interaction have a larger advantage than those which were either entirely online or entirely in the classroom.

U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan, adds his blessing when he says, "Technology presents a huge opportunity that can be leveraged in rural communities and inner-city urban settings, particularly in subjects where there is a shortage of highly qualified teachers. At the same time, good teachers can utilize new technology to accelerate learning and provide extended learning opportunities for students."

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