The days when college students could live on campus, participate in extra-curricular activities, and focus on their classes without working are coming to an end. Faced with a grim economy and an even grimmer job market, undergraduates have now become driven to graduate college in the shortest period of time and with the least amount of debt. Today the higher education demographic includes the young generation hoping to get an education while holding down a full time job as well as older folks looking to increase their career opportunities through further training while still caring for their families. This diverse group of college students has one element in common, though; an ever growing number is attending college online.
My own experience demonstrates the usefulness and versatility of having online education as an option. Certain I was going to be a music major, I completed two years of college on campus. However, a family tragedy and the personal issues which followed threw my life plan off track. I ended up dropping out of school and moving to another state. When I was finally able to go back to school, I could only afford to do so if I worked full time. While taking in-person classes I was at best able to work fifteen hours a week, while only taking about twelve credits. Because of the flexibility offered with the online format, I was able to average sixteen credits (once term I took nineteen!) all the while working full time.
Not only did attending college online allow me to schedule my time efficiently, the quality of education remained the same. In fact, some of my most interesting courses were ones I took online. A classroom management class, for example, had links to numerous online lectures and teacher training videos built into the course. Not only were the students in the class exposed to the professor's own ideas (through her written lectures), but they were also introduced to and inspired by the famous educators from the links. As ironic as this sounds, I also interacted more with my classmates in many of my online classes than I had when taking on campus classes. Many online courses include peer review of papers and/or group projects, and since everything is "virtual", classmates tend to be more honest and open with each other in this format.
Like many students of higher education these days, I can honestly say I would not have been able to earn my undergraduate degree without attending college online. Colleges and universities both public and private understand this, and are rapidly expanding their selections of web based courses and degree programs. A new education degree has even emerged in recent years which speaks to this trend: a degree in online education. Courses for this degree include traditional education courses as well as more unique ones such as training in educational programming and online communication. Whether internet education will completely eliminate college campuses is debatable, but the clear need for an online alternative to traditional education is not.