New technology has allowed educational institutions to take the distance out of distance learning, which has made online degree programs more popular than ever. “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the US, 2005″, a report published last year by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, gives a very positive outlook on the future of online education. The report indicates that online enrollment in the US increased from 1.98m in 2003 to 2.35m a year later, a growth rate more than 10 times that predicted by the National Center for Education Statistics for the general post-secondary student population.
The earliest inception of e-learning closely resembled a classroom on a CD-ROM, and was structured in such a way as to present students with a rigid format that offered little in the way of a flexible learning environment. Most recently, however, e-learning has evolved from a formal presentation of information to a much more fluid and integrated type of learning. As technology has improved by leaps and bounds, demand for high quality online educational programs has steadily increased. The flexibility of current technology now available has allowed many institutions to offer a multitude of ways for students to interact with not only faculty, but with each other as well. The end result has been the creation of a more community inspired experience that leaves students feeling they are part of a greater whole instead of an island unto themselves.
Investing in an integrated learning curriculum is not cheap, though the institutions who have made the effort to stay abreast of the newest technology have certainly reaped rewards from their efforts. With the most current formats available being favored by many students, it is an investment that is likely to yield favorable results for years to come. With each new student that graduates from an online university, the public acceptance of this form of learning will continue to grow. Though it’s likely that online degree programs will never surpass traditional university programs, there is a good chance that in the near future, most graduates who enter the workforce will have gained a level of experience with an online learning format within some point along their educational journey.