Check out these five facts about the latest trends in the world of online education.
Thinking about going back to school? Before you grab your backpack and head for the nearest campus, consider if an online education is right for you.
You might be surprised by what you find.
For example, did you know that approximately one-third of all higher education students, or around 6.1 million people, were enrolled in at least one online class in fall 2010?
These statistics, released by the Babson Survey Research Group in their 2011 Survey of Online Learning, suggest that more students are taking advantage of online education's flexibility of going to school whenever and wherever you want.
But can you really get a valuable education online? That's for you to decide.
Check out some of these best kept secrets about online degrees.
Secret #1 - Online Learning Can Be Quite Effective
You might expect that in-person classroom attention and the advantages of a campus community would mean that on-campus students perform better than their online peers. But that's not necessarily true.
Technology improvements have paved the way for advancements in the online learning experience through video lectures, interactive discussions, and multimedia teaching methods.
And these features might be the reason why online students perform moderately better than those in a classroom environment, according to a revised September 2010 U.S. Department of Education report, "Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning."
Secret #2 - Many "Traditional" Schools Offer Online Degrees
Online programs - they're not unique to just community colleges and vocational schools. In fact, even some of the oldest colleges in America offer online courses.
Harvard University, for example, offers more than 150 online classes, according to Harvard University Extension School.
As another example, in fall 2011, California State University announced a massive plan to expand the number of available online courses for their students. And universities like University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, Los Angeles, already offer full-fledged cyber learning and a comprehensive catalog of online college credit programs.
With traditional schools expanding their curriculum online, you could have the opportunity to take courses at the school of your choice, no matter where you live.
Secret #3 - Online Degrees are Offered in Several Unexpected Majors
Think that degrees in chemistry, computer systems, graphic design, culinary management, and fashion design can only be earned on-campus? You'd be surprised at the range of classes you can now take online.
Through the use of video and audio technology, even practical and vocational programs can be taught online.
Nursing, as one example, was mentioned as one of the fastest growing online master's degree programs, according to a 2009 Pearson Learning Solutions report.
Secret #4 - Online Degrees Aren't Easier than On-Campus
Online education might seem easier than traditional in-person classroom learning, but that's not the case.
Although online learning isn't identical to on-campus programs, it can still produce the same end result, according to a UC Berkeley course guide.
This means that online courses are just as difficult as on-campus courses, if not harder.
"While online courses can offer more flexibility in scheduling, they require more self-discipline and independence than on-campus courses," notes the Minnesota State University, Mankato's College of Extended Learning. "Some students can find this uncomfortable and not suitable for their learning style."
Secret #5 - Employers are Warming Up to Online Degrees
Most employers consider an online degree to be equivalent to a degree earned from a traditional on-campus school, according to a survey by Excelsior College and Zogby International, a market research firm.
Of the 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners familiar with online or distance learning programs, 83 percent considered an online degree to be just as respected as one earned from a campus-based program.
An important thing to remember, however, is that all schools are not created equal. This means you should consider the accreditation and reputation of a school before choosing to earn an online or on-campus degree from their institution.
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