In years gone by, a university degree was a sure-fire route to a high-flying career and an equally lofty salary. It also offered the only real formalized route to continue your education after college. As with many industries, the internet has revolutionized the education sector and there are now many options for people of all ages to learn online. Additionally, ever-volatile economic conditions mean that a degree isn’t the passport to assured employment that it once was. But does this mean that the old way will soon be dead? Or is there still a place for traditional university learning to flourish alongside online alternatives?
It’s unarguable that traditional university is more of a life experience than any online counterpart is likely to ever be. As well as an education, it provides the opportunity for young adults to cut the apron strings from their parents, make new friends, join sports teams, clubs, etc. This helps students to begin forming a network of relationships that could prove vital throughout the rest of their life. Universities also provide access to facilities for hands-on subjects, such as biology, medicine or dentistry.
On the flip-side, traditional universities are expensive and increasing in price every year. They don’t provide the guaranteed employment that they once did, meaning that students can be saddled with debt for decades. Universities put a large focus on general critical thinking, but in certain disciplines, students may find that they graduate without the practical skills required to secure a job. The pace of change in technology subjects, for example, can mean that the syllabus is out of date by the time it’s taught.
Online learning scores serious points for its cost in comparison to university and its flexibility. It’s opened up a world of education that was previously off-limits to those that couldn’t afford the cost or time commitment of traditional routes. Most courses have a focus on hard, specific skills that allow you to quickly get practical with what you learn. And online courses can handle the pace of change; if a new programming language is released, you can bet that there will be hundreds of courses springing up, almost instantly. A final big point — many of the skills that will be marketable in the future are going to be digital skills. Things like search engine optimization and content marketing were created online so it makes sense that this would be the best environment for learning them.
However, online learning isn’t perfect and you do miss some of the network building that comes with a traditional university. It also requires self-discipline; you likely have more responsibility for your own schedule. There are many thousands of courses available and no stringent quality control so it’s key you do your due-diligence, prior to committing.
There will likely always be a place for traditional university in some professions. However, even in this space, institutions will need to modernize and utilize online tools. Millennials and the iGeneration demand a different learning experience and online learning will continue to flourish in a digital world.