Will college soon be online only?

online education
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Overall postsecondary enrollment numbers are decreasing, and online education is eating into what’s left


Online courses continue to become more popular in the United States, and with good reason. In 2016-17, overall postsecondary enrollment dropped by almost half a percent, while the number of students who took at least some of their courses online grew by 5.7%. Over the last 15 years alone, online enrollment has quadrupled!


However, a report from George Mason University claims that the growth in online enrollment has been “disproportionately large in the for-profit sector.” Further, “online coursework has contributed to increasing gaps in educational success across socioeconomic groups while failing to improve affordability.” In essence, online is growing, but is it truly making higher education more available to those most in need?


Online Education Stats


Who is leading the trend today when it comes to online education? The following statistics help us see a clearer profile of the typical online student, and the more we see, the more it begins to make sense:


  • Most online students are already working.  36% of online students are switching careers, while 34 % of them are looking to advance their careers.  
  • The average online student is in his early thirties. The average age of the distance learner is 32 years old, which shows that you can continue your studies even if you are a parent, an industry professional and everything in between.
  • Graduate students are more likely to obtain their degree online than undergraduate students. This may be due to how perspectives change as one gets older, or the flexibility needed by individuals with already-established careers and families.
  • Finding the right online degree can be tough, but is easier for graduates. About 22% of graduate students in the USA study online were successful in finding a suitable online course, compared to only 11 percent of undergraduates.

The benefits of online education for students and universities


If you are wondering why online education is so popular, consider the key advantages which online education can bring for people in today’s busy world:


  • accessibility: students are less bound by time and location
  • flexibility: students are not constrained by a fixed schedule and can continue to keep their personal circumstances and/or work obligations
  • affordability: distance education is often less expensive than traditional education, thus opening up learning opportunities to those people who otherwise, cannot cover the cost of a degree course.


Online education is certainly changing the way we view pathways to career and vocational success. But not all institutions have yet started moving in this direction. We do expect to continue to see further changes, as institutions across the world begin to target new groups of individuals and handle the squeezing market. But it is this squeezing market and new set of technologies that makes online and distance education the next step to a truly globalized world of education.

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