The rising costs of college tuition have hit students and their families square in the wallets, with many families fretting about whether they’ll be able to afford to send their children to college when they graduate from high school. Among the reasons for the increasing costs of a college education is administrative costs: Everyday, seemingly mundane functions of a college campus can add up as more students are admitted and use services.
But colleges and universities have begun to find alternatives to adding administration costs: Administering online courses and decentralizing information technology services can add up to real savings, both for school administrations and students. Still, online education faces some barriers—perceptions that keep the practice from becoming more mainstream.
Perception vs. reality: online learning
Online learning has become increasingly popular over the last decade, with more than three-quarters of higher education institutions offering online courses. But just 30 percent of adults believe that online courses provide an equal educational value to courses administered in a traditional classroom.
A study done by Pew Research reveals that online courses might get a bad rap from people who’ve never had experience with online education: the number of people who believe online courses provide a comparable educational experience rises to 39 percent among people who’ve taken an online course. For colleges and universities, this is still a hurdle they’ll have to clear; as long as the perception of online education lags behind its reality, students and schools alike may continue to groan under the weight of rising administration costs.
Finding the right fit for online education
Technology has made it possible for the worlds of education and business to move much more quickly: Where grading papers and planning meetings might have taken days or weeks, students can email papers and projects to their instructors and business professionals can communicate any time, regardless of distance.
In order to prepare students for the fast-paced marketplace, online education can be a solution: Earning an online bachelor degree can help students learn to navigate the Internet in new ways. Taking online courses can also offer the kind of flexibility that students with other obligations—family, a full-time job—necessary to complete their education. As more employers move their back-office and everyday operations online, having the skills to thrive in an online environment is becoming increasingly valuable.
Of course, online education has detractors in part because it doesn’t work for everyone; many students rely on the atmosphere of a face-to-face course to learn, while others simply prefer to attend courses on a traditional campus. But for students whose schedules would necessitate taking evening or distance courses, an online degree program can offer both freedom and structure through online interactions.
The world of higher education was among the first to adapt to, and take advantage of, emerging technologies. Despite the relative slowness with which the general public is embracing online education, the need for effective, affordable, and reliable education will encourage more students and their families to consider alternatives to the traditional classroom. As more people experience online education, both the methods and the people will adjust for success.