The current state of online education

“What you should be asking is, ‘What are you doing with technology that you couldn’t do before? Are we just using it to digitize traditional processes, or are we using it to really reinvent learning?’”
– Richard Cualatta

The Internet and its progress

The majority of us tend to agree that we’re living through what we call the “information age”, where we went from traditional industry introduced by the Industrial Revolution to an economy based on computation and large amounts of information. We’ve shifted from the factory being the only means of production to having the ability to produce value with only a laptop and a stable WiFi connection. All this has happen very quickly, it only took about 30 years which demonstrates how quickly technology has evolved. Contrary to popular belief, there is still a large part of the world that isn’t connected to the Internet.

InternetPopulation2011_DeSabbata_Graham_OII

When talking about online education, we should consider the fact that only a fraction of the earth’s population has access to this particular form of education.

The state of online education

Today, online education is not meant to replace post-secondary studies; it is more of a supplement to further your knowledge on a subject. Even if one choses to take an online course, it is difficult to verify if that person has learnt anything. It becomes a question of credibility — Is the provider of the online course credible enough for one to consider that the participants have actually developed their knowledge on that particular subject?

Today, it is shown that programs and courses offered online have entered the mainstream. In the southern United States, the overall percent of schools identifying online education as a critical long-term strategy grew from 52% in 2003 to 64% in 2005.

In addition to academia adopting online education, there are several popular MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) that have quickly drawn attention such as Udemy, Coursera, Edx to name a few.

“In the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them as a path toward sophisticated skills and high-paying jobs, without paying tuition or collecting a college degree.”
-Stated by author Tamar Lewin in The New York Times article Instruction for Masses Knocked Down Campus Walls

Learning a new skill for a job or even just for personal achievement can be considered as education. When pursuing a graduate degree, we hope to acquire new knowledge, skills and attitudes that won’t just help us for landing a good job, but for our personal lives. Even if the current model for online education isn’t as credible as the traditional approach to education, we can still enroll in these courses and benefit from them for other reasons than a degree, such as personal satisfaction and curiosity.

What are your thoughts?

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