Online Learning: A Blessing and a Curse
In today’s technology-driven world, online education is booming. The convenience of learning on your own time, at your own pace and in the setting of your choice is attracting millions of non-traditional students who are balancing work, school and family.
Today, nearly one in four students take at least some college courses online, up from one in 10 in 2002; according to an Oct. 1, 2009 Reuters report. And two million students, who are typically older than the traditional 18- to 22-year-old undergraduate, take all of their courses online while an additional two million students take at least one class online.
Twenty years ago, University of Phoenix continued its innovative approach to learning by adding online education, establishing itself as one of the first universities to offer degree programs online. As other universities have realized the need to offer students more flexibility in higher education, a growing number of universities have turned to online course offerings to bridge the gap.
Online learning provides the structure to learn in a sequential and guided method and takes the vast sea of data and millions of branched Internet options to a manageable and less threatening process.
With the “now” generation wanting information instantly and having limited tolerance for delay or wasted time, traditional approaches in education risk going the way of the dinosaur. More educational institutions are adopting and embracing this inevitable change to avoid suffering the risk of extinction.
Today, with your PDA or iPhone, learning is in the palm of your hand. University of Phoenix continues to be the leader in this arena, because students not only earn their degree online, they can also access the University’s resources from any Internet device or computer. Learning is literally at their fingertips.
The University Library—which allows users to search more than 100 subscription databases containing information not normally found through free Web content—is one of the University’s most valuable online resources. Through the use of numerous search engines, including ProQuest, users get a picture of interrelated topics instantaneously. That means users can spend their time critically thinking about the topic rather than going through the tedious process of gathering information.
However, while this instantaneous gathering of information is convenient, it can also negatively reinforce the current generation’s dependency on technology as a crutch rather than as a support.
As educators, we must be mindful that students aren’t just engaged in surface knowledge. We have to rekindle a spirit of inquiry, critical thinking and innovation.
Too many higher education students equate having a diploma with success and employability, but the economics of supply and demand have not changed. Students need to differentiate themselves with a unique approach and knowledge that allows them to contribute to the workforce by getting people to think and act differently than the status-quo. Students should be mindful that a degree may get you in the door, but it’s your knowledge and your ability to apply it, that will keep you there.
This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.