Online learning has quickly become the norm in the world of higher education. And we’re not just talking about the online classes that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced. Actually, studies show that the number of college students enrolled in online courses has increased each consecutive year since 2002, and at a higher rate than college enrollment overall.
Now, in 2020, higher education institutions (administrators, faculty, and students alike) are begging the question, will online college become the norm? When the coronavirus pandemic slows down, will we continue to utilize online learning methods?
There is much debate on whether online degree programs will become more prevalent beyond 2020-2021. Many people are saying that, because coronavirus has forced faculty and students to adopt new technologies, it’s created more disarray than good. Others believe the pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to learn, and later implement, more online learning methods – and that professors should be taking advantage of this time. To the same end, some say that after moving to fully online classes, they will continue to desire this level of flexibility in the “new normal.”
There are truths to all sides of this discussion. It is true that COVID-19 forced online education upon many, and that the transition was difficult. An article from the New York Times reveals that “conceiving, planning, designing, and developing a genuine online course or program can consume as much as a year of faculty training and collaboration.” But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, most colleges and universities were given a matter of days to transition their classes online. For many, this was a hard adjustment – full of many more adjustments along the way in order to get online learning right. Some schools are still figuring it out, leaving many students with the question, “Are online classes worth it?”
At the same time, there are colleges and universities out there who were prepared to go online. At Goodwin, for example, the majority of our degree programs already had online components. Many of our degrees are offered fully online, while others are offered in a hybrid online, on-campus format. When the call for online learning was made, we already had the tools in place to get online classes off the ground, and to keep our students safe. Because of this, we have been able to continue offering a quality education to students online, and to show them the benefits of an online college experience.
One of the main benefits of an online degree is flexibility. In a well-structured online degree program, students are able to move at their own pace and complete assignments during a time that works for them – for example, before or after work, or while their child is at school. Students also have the benefit of taking classes wherever they want, so long as there is an internet connection.
Great online degree programs also are built to help students assess and progress as they go. In other words, once a student has mastered a skill, they can jump ahead and keep moving at their own pace. They also have the resources to guide them along the way. Despite popular belief, a good online college will provide easy-to-use programs that allow students to connect – with their professors, and with one-another. The technology goes beyond the expected 30-minute Zoom session, and truly enables collaboration in the online classroom.
Of course, online college is not right for everyone. There are many majors, for example, that require a hands-on training component. Consider any healthcare degree, or manufacturing program. While online classes are feasible in these subjects, the technical, hard-skills learned in the classroom are invaluable.
On-campus classes also are widely preferred by high school graduates and young, first-time college students. They often desire more of a campus life and/or the ability to connect with their new peers in-person. In fact, in a Niche survey taken at the end of March (when coronavirus really began), less than one in 10 high school seniors said they would consider online college classes. About 90 percent, after experiencing a quick-switch to virtual learning, said they desired an in-person experience.
However, this is not the case for everyone. While young, college-bound students may benefit from the social and hands-on interactions on-campus, many adult learners – with families, with careers – will benefit more from online education. In April, only one month into the pandemic, more than half of American adults who were considering a college education said that they’d do it online. At the end of July, almost 50% of women and 33% of men agreed they would now choose an exclusively online learning option. And even if COVID-19 were not a threat, they’d still prefer an online-only option.
Why? Because adults typically have other priorities in life. In fact, 55% of Americans say that work and family commitments, combined with course schedules and transportation, are major barriers in their ability to go to school. Online education makes earning a degree easier for these adults, as they can take classes at home and continue working full-time and caring for their families.
So, Do Online Colleges Hold the Future?
While on-campus learning is an invaluable asset for the majority of college students today, online classes are extremely important for those who need more tractability in their college schedules. Even those who prefer on-campus learning now, can benefit from online learning methods down the road – particularly when they move on to graduate or professional level educations.
That said, we have no doubt that online education will play an important role in future, especially as more teachers and students are now adapted to it.
To learn about the online degree programs available at Goodwin University, or to ask about our on-campus, online, and hybrid degree options, do not hesitate to call 800-889-3282 today. You can also visit us online at https://www.goodwin.edu/landingpages/online-learning to learn more.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.