Why Bill Gates Was Wrong About the PC but Right About Online Education
Although most institutions already offer courses that are hybrids of online/campus-based learning, some few colleges, like the University of Liverpool, have been offering fully accredited programs online for years. As of its publication in 2012, the report noted that 2.6 percent of higher educational institutions in the United States currently offer one or more full online courses, whereas another 9.4 percent are currently developing them.
Students are eager to take advantage of such offers when they see them. When US News & World Report issues their annual “Top Colleges” list, magazine sales double, website page views skyrocket into the millions, and thousand of requests are submitted for more detailed results. In spite of the cautions from higher education experts about the validity of these rankings, students and their families still pay close attention to the results.
How It All Began
Online training started out in the 1960’s offering research materials and communication avenues for students to supplement their on-campus study programs. Now nearly any course of study a student or professional could wish for can be found someplace online, both accredited and non-accredited, from high school up to full PhD programs. And the offerings continue to expand, as more and more colleges and universities cautiously jump on board.
Good role models exist for the more cautious higher institutions to follow in planning their own online programs, once they learn to trust the positive results of online learning. One of the oldest and best of these is Penn State World Campus, which has been offering long distance learning since 1892 in the form of correspondence courses for international students. In 1998 they were one of the first accredited US institutions to provide online learning. They now offer over 90 graduate degree and certificate programs to 40 countries from all seven continents.
New Online Programs Reflecting Current Job Needs
In addition to existing programs coming on board from institutions late to the party, many highly ranked universities are offering brand new degree programs in subjects demanded by proliferating job needs. These new programs range from Internet management and design, to how to combat climate change, to how to create international peace. Here are a few examples:
Mid Sweden University (Sweden) offers an online Master of Science degree in EcoTechnology & Sustainable Development, which provides the student or professional with a holistic approach to sustainable development.
The University of Berkeley (US) offers a new degree in Data Management – collecting, organizing, and deciphering the reams of data made available by online communications and monitoring.
University for Peace (Geneva) offers a multidisciplinary masters in Sustainable Peace Through Sport – harnessing the potential of sports to build global peace.
Penn State World Campus offers a masters certificate in GeoDesign – designing sustainable buildings and landscapes in harmony with the local environment. This certificate is a stand-alone credential that combines masters studies with real world experience.
New courses of study like these are triggered by a need for new expertise in the field. The worldwide climate change crisis has created new jobs for international government policy makers, writers, corporate advisors, lawyers, and engineers who have environmental expertise. New educational demands call for experts in Internet management of educational programs and grading and new Internet technologies call for teachers who know how to utilize them. New building codes call for expertise in the latest design technologies and efficiency appliances and fixtures. In addition, those who have been holding existing jobs are nearing retirement age and are looking for trainees to replace themselves. Online training is especially good for self-starters with a lot of prior experience, who are working full time, or people who live far away from accredited higher institutions of learning.