Gains in the types, volume, and legitimacy of online degree programs have been significantly measurable within the last few years, with no indication of slowdown. When the distance learning pioneers first broke on the educational scene in the late 80s and early 90s, few took the programs seriously. Now, it’s impossible to keep track of the number of distance learning environments being launched online, many as integral parts of elite college and university academic models.
Online degrees and diplomas have been marred by the ubiquity of degree counterfeiters and fake online colleges that go to great lengths to appear legitimate. However, in return for years of persistence and non-stop modifications, technological advances, and curriculum improvements, online universities now have overwhelming enrollment numbers and dozens of degree programs. In fact, there are plenty of higher educational sources that now report little difference in learning outcomes between online and traditional course work.
Since online universities specialize in distance learning degrees, most have perfected the art of teaching for a primarily busy, adult audience. With this demographic comes slews of career-centric customers seeking targeted and relevant degrees and curriculums. The increased demand for micro-specialized degrees may be directly attributable to the modifications in educational paradigms made in the name of adult learning. Professionals have asked for granular concentrations and post-degree professional certificates that deliver distilled doses of niche-specific courses.
Large and popular online universities, such as the University of Phoenix, Kaplan University, and Post University, also have expanded financial aid opportunities to those who qualify. Not long ago, online degrees were limited in payment options and there were few alternative aid options.
Traditional Colleges Lend Legitimacy to Online Learning
Traditional campuses have dabbled in virtual learning for decades. The first delivered courses via television or mail to remote students. Only recently, though, have traditional schools rolled out robust and scalable online learning environments intended to emulate on-campus programs and courses. And elite universities have not stayed behind. Harvard, Stanford, and Penn State all have equally impressive online distance learning environments that provide a wide variety of courses and degrees, seminars, professional certificates, and undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate courses.
Programs may be fully online or available in a “blended” or hybrid format. Blended degrees require participants to spend some part of their study time on campus. Nursing degrees are typical ó participants may be required to meet with faculty on site and complete skills-based courses and clinicals on campus. Universities make extensive efforts to design and deliver the same caliber of online degree as is available on-campus; their reputations rest on excellent academics, traditional or otherwise.
Art and culinary schools also offer limited, but popular online courses. Curriculum is not as easily modified for virtual degrees, but students will, nevertheless find a few that are suitable. More often than not, courses offered online, particularly in culinary disciplines, are either management programs or personal enrichment courses. Art schools with active graphics, gaming, and Web design and development departments often do provide extensive online coursework.
With no sure end in sight for online degree development, the virtual educational world has no other option but to expand and exceed all expectations. High-quality distance learning might become the best educational environment of all.