Some believe that online education glues students and young professionals to their couches and computer screens. But earning a college degree via the Internet isn’t all bad. In fact, online education could be the answer to a growing problem: the inaccessibility of a college education.
A college degree has become a first-world prerequisite rather than a privilege. The revered college experience has become just as quintessentially “American” as the American Dream itself. This cultural acceptance, coupled with the Great Recession’s “credential climb,” has led to an increase in price and enrollment in traditional four-year programs.
Today, the college experience seems exclusive to the wealthy and those willing to take on $30,000-plus in debt. A traditional college education is not available to all that need one due to financial restraints.
Enter online classes. Although controversial, attending class via computer is cheaper, more convenient and more conducive to the busy schedules of students. Formerly impervious barriers to entry can now be circumvented by a laptop with an Internet connection.
A New “Common” Application
When it comes to age, location and education level, online programs don’t discriminate. “[They] can open doors of opportunity to millions of people who otherwise might not have access to postsecondary education,” explains the Wall Street Journal’s Daphne Koller in a recent article. “[They] also have the potential to change higher learning from a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience of earning a degree to a continuing endeavor that helps people meet their education needs across a lifetime.”
Online education also challenges the “one size fits all” curriculum common to brick-and-mortar classrooms. As our society continues to move into the digital space, we’re experiencing an increase in technology-based careers that didn’t exist just five years ago. For example, certain jobs within the data science field are “witnessing a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with the analytical capabilities to understand data.”
Online classes fill this void. Through semester-long programs and training courses, they equip students with the skills necessary to fulfill these new roles. In our constantly evolving society, an adaptable education system is necessary.
Online education is a financially responsible way for students to earn the college degree necessary for success. Unfortunately, learning through a screen lacks the important interpersonal and cultural aspects of college—a facet some aren’t willing to give up. It’s value instead lies in the flexibility and frugality that our current education system lacks.
There’s also viability in the classroom/online education hybrid. Instead of dropping out of college due to a lack of funds, making ends meet with a few online courses is a financially responsible alternative.