As I begin to prepare for college this Fall, I will probably become one of the 28% of all students across the country who enroll in at least one online course. The possibilities and options for learning will continue to grow as more universities continue to increase their online offerings. For years, online classes had two main barriers. First, online classes were mainly offered by lesser known, lower-quality or for-profit institutions. Second, well-known and high-quality schools charged the same amount for their online classes as traditional ones. This led to many students choosing traditional classes.
Many online learning experts point to Georgia Tech’s decision to offer its masters in computer science online as the game changer. As one of the strongest master’s programs in the country, Georgia Tech had the reputation and offered the online version for a fraction of the traditional cost. Additionally, the online program enrolled more students. The success of Georgia Tech’s “experiment” with a full online program has ultimately come down to demographics. The average age of most of the students in the online version of the program is 34 years. The average age in the traditional program is 24 years old. This offers a prime example of how online learning is changing not just education, but employee training as well. Since those in the online program at Georgia Tech are in the middle of their careers, the classes offer them a chance to further their education or enhance their skills without having to take years off from work.
As EdLab starts to think about how self-directed learning is changing the educational and professional landscape, I wonder what lessons we can take or “learn” from Georgia Tech’s success. Additionally, do you know of any successful online programs?