What Everybody Ought to Know About Online Learning and the Economy

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Online college enrollment has skyrocketed over the past five years. Though that’s partially because of the increasingly large number of options available, with new schools opening every month and existing ones adding more classes, there’s also an economic element to this boom. The bum economy has forced many adults and professionals to go back to college to expand their skill set, and they’re increasingly seeking out virtual learning opportunities to do it.

e-Learning enrollment increased by 6.52 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2013, according to the Instructional Technology Council’s 2012 Distance Education Survey. They credit part of the rise to people trying to add more skills to their portfolio before re-igniting their search for employment.

Not So Out of the Ordinary

Another recent study found that fully 25 percent of college students are
John F Kennedy talks about goal of education
enrolled in an online college. That means that it has truly gone mainstream. Hundreds of thousands of layoffs have forced many individuals back to school, but they are choosing distance learning courses over enrolling in a traditional university.

There are a number of reasons for this. Some are older workers who don’t feel comfortable returning to a regular classroom setting after all these years. Some are busy parents who have to balance work, childcare and side pursuits like remodeling the house with new appliances and kitchen cabinet knobs. Some are students who cannot afford on-campus housing because of the economic downturn — they’re forced to take classes while remaining at home. Others are recent high school grads who can’t afford to attend a traditional university at all, or are unable to attend lectures during the day because they’re working a part- or full-time job trying to make ends meet.

Better Quality

Indeed, the improved quality of e-courses has also helped drive up enrollment. A decade ago everyone raised their eyebrows when you said you attended an online school. Today, people don’t bat an eye. Distance programs are now offered by many traditional institutions, because universities have realized this is a sought-after feature, and they want to be able to keep up with online-only universities.

Schools have become more academically rigorous and they’re requiring more work and commitment from students. They’re offering better professors and a larger number of major programs, not to mention working on improving functionality and efficiency for e-learning features. A few years ago, IT departments ran distance programs. Now, administrators are reporting to the president of academic affairs, or a department dean. Many students have realized that you get what you put into these classes as well, and they’re working harder. The larger enrollments due to the economy have been helpful all around in bettering educational opportunities.

Specialized Courses

Another area that has boomed during the economic downturn is specialized degree programs . People are desperate to learn skills that are needed in this new economy, including basics such as plumbing and carpentry, because there will always be a demand for these jobs. That’s led to a rise in web-based trade schools as well.

Distance learning isn’t just for white-collar jobs anymore. These days you can find anything from TV repair classes to electrical installation courses on the Internet. And those who enroll report they’re just as effective as other traditional counterparts. The current economy has produced a beautiful new wave of education, it will only continue to grow in popularity as technology grows.

Online education is a fast growing, and constantly improving new wave of academics, and it’s only going to gain popularity. In 2014, there are plans proposed to offer distance learning to out-of-state students, get a handle on financial aid fraud, and more.

Michelle Rebecca is a freelance blogger.  Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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