Online Learning

Online Teaching and Learning

Online Teaching and Learning Gaining Mainstream Acceptance

Online teaching and learning is growing more rapidly than face-to-face classes. Enrollment in online classes has now reached 5.6 million students, with a growth rate of more than one million students per year. Many college and university faculty members have embraced online learning and others have expressed concerns over certain aspects of learning outside a traditional classroom with a qualified instructor present. The fact is, there is a huge demand for online learning, and it is here to stay.

Most of the instructors who have a positive image of online learning are the instructors that have had the opportunity to be involved in it. One third of the faculty members in public universities have taught an online course and over half of the faculty members have recommended them to their students. According to “Lessons From the Cyber Space Classroom: the Realities of Online Teaching” by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt, many smaller institutions are interested in becoming more involved with online classes to boost their enrollment numbers.

Larger institutions are highly involved in online teaching and learning as well. Two-thirds of all for-profit institutions say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term educational strategies, according to the Sloan Consortium. Some of the colleges offering online classes and degree programs do not even have a brick-and-mortar campus. Studies are finding no difference in the quality of education that these institutions provide when compared to traditional colleges and universities, and the overall costs for these institutions is often lower than an online degree from a traditional institution.

The economic recession sent many people to find a better education, but online classrooms saw the most new enrollment due to the recession. Only half of the institutions reported that the recession increased the demand for face-to-face classes, while three-fourths of the institutions reported that the recession increased demand for their online courses and programs.

People learn in different ways, and many students thrive in a more flexible, online classroom. Students ages 16-24 are growing fast in online enrollment with 30% of all college students taking at least one of their classes online. Women and minorities are also going online faster than other segments of the student population. Since 57% of all college students have jobs, the flexibility provided by online classes allows these students to pursue their education no matter what their work schedule is like.

Since adult students are going online to pursue higher education or a second career through online learning, many of the online schools use Principles of Adult Education developed by Malcolm Knowles. These principles are the foundation for teaching adults, and the principles can be applied to online teaching and learning as well as to the face-to-face class setting.

According to Knowles, in order for an education to be successful adult students need to understand why they need to learn something, they must have the freedom to learn in their own way, the learning must be experiential, the time must be right for the adult student to learn and the process needs to be positive and encouraging.

The Department of Education conducted a study in 2009 that concluded that students who learned online actually outperformed students who learned in a face-to-face learning environment. Most reputable colleges are offering some type of online learning, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Two-thirds of all Title IV post secondary schools granting degrees offer some type of online learning.

Public universities are moving into online learning faster than private institutions, and some faculty members at the schools have been more receptive to these classes than others. One-third of all post secondary institutions offer online classes or degrees, but only about 5% of the faculty members of these schools participate in the online learning program of their school.

Employers are accepting online degrees, however. The CIA human resources department estimates that 5% to 10% of all of their new hires have earned their degrees online. A survey conducted by Vault, Inc. reported that 85% of employers believe that online degrees are more accepted than they were only five years ago. Choosing an accredited school is an important step towards earning a degree that is readily accepted by potential employers.

Another factor that will continue to drive enrollment in online programs higher is newly signed legislation that will lift restrictions on financial aid for online programs. You can submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) directly online. About 66% of all currently enrolled college and university students are currently receiving some form of student financial aid.

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