Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in The United States
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About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in The United States
Not so many years ago, the mere mention of an online education or degree was generally met with suspicion and even a few chuckles from those who were academically in the know—and for good reason. The early history of online courses and degree programs in the United States was less than stellar, and typically consisted of a handful of non-accredited, so-called colleges and universities that would, in many cases, sell degrees to the highest bidder. Never mind that these degrees were essentially worthless in terms of securing employment or advancement, there were still plenty of individuals out there who, in search of a symbol of status, lined up in droves to basically pay for the phony Master’s and Doctorate level diplomas to decorate their walls.
Those were the ugly days of online distance education in the United States, but fortunately, those days are now a thing of the past. Due to the expansion and widespread availability of the Internet, most major colleges and universities in the U.S. have now begun to offer legitimate online courses leading to bachelor, Master’s and PhD-level degrees in almost every major field of study, from education to engineering.
While occasionally one of these “degree-mill” schools, as the illicit online schools were once called, will emerge in the search results for online education, most programs are now on the up-and-up and have gained a high level of respectability, largely due to the high quality of the programs they offer and the well-educated and prepared graduates they produce.
In 2011, a survey of major college and university faculty and administrators found that the number of students taking at least one online course in the U.S. had surpassed the 6 million mark, which means today over one-third of American students are taking at least one online course per year towards their respective degrees. Other facts unearthed by this survey include:
• The rate of growth in enrollment at online schools is ten times higher than the rate of growth at traditional schools.
• Thirty-one percent of students now favor the online format/distance learning model of education over studying at regular brick and mortar schools.
• In over 90 percent of academic disciplines at schools offering online courses, the number of students who choose to study strictly online is growing dramatically.
• Academic leaders in the United States almost universally report that the level of student satisfaction in online courses is now equal to or greater than that of traditional school studies.
• Close to 70 percent of all schools in the U.S. say that online courses are a major component in their long-term educational strategy.
• The number of instructors skeptical about the quality and effectiveness of online education and online degrees is shrinking considerably.
Simply put, online education in the U.S. is not just growing, but flourishing, and is now an effective and extremely convenient educational option for students. In other words, when a student now proclaims that he or she earned their degree either partially or wholly through online courses, the hearers of this proclamation no longer snicker and raise their eyebrows in suspicion, but rather nod their head in recognition of the achievement.