This week, the 2013 Sloan Survey of Online Learning Report was released. The report is informed by responses from over 2,800 U.S. colleges and universities so it provides a fairly comprehensive analysis of the state of online learning. As I was reviewing some of the impressive statistics regarding the number of students taking online courses, I found myself wondering why I choose to take online courses.
Throughout my career as a student in higher education I had always taken face-to-face courses. I was a traditional undergraduate student who lived on campus, took a full-time course load, and who tried my hardest to avoid 8 AM lectures and Friday classes. Many of my on-ground classes utilized Blackboard as a course management system but there were no online courses offered at my university. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I might be missing out on a vital experience.
Online learning has seen significant growth over the last ten years. In fall 2002, online enrollments accounted for 9.6% of the total enrollments for higher education. By fall 2012, that percentage has more than tripled at 33.5%. When surveyed about the future of online learning only 1% of respondents stated that they thought it was “not likely” that a majority of students in higher educational will be taking at least one course online. While there are some concerns about growth, it is clear that online learning is now an integral part of many students education (Allen, E., Seaman, J., 2014).
There are clear benefits to online learning, which I believe have contributed to the tremendous increases in enrollments. For me, the decision to enroll in a fully online graduate program was deliberate. Within my current position I work a varied schedule; during peak times of year I may be working evenings, weekends, and traveling. With a fully online program I can complete readings and view lectures at times when I am fully focused and ready to learn. This does require discipline, especially when it comes to completing assignments by the due date.
Brian Fleming and Kelley Ross, both Senior Analysts at Eduventures, recently posted an article titled “What Happened to the Online Market?” Together they analyzed distance education data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to identify key pieces of information about online learning. They recognized that “the big players are still by and large non-traditional and early online adopters…” and I was not surprised to see Northeastern University identified as a leader with “impressive national reach” (Fleming, B., Ross, K., 2014).
I choose to learn online for the flexibility of asynchronous learning. I choose to learn online at Northeastern for the reputation of the institution, the 30 year history of our distance education offerings, and the respect that we garner within the field of online learning.