Online courses are becoming increasingly popular in educational circles. Yet as their availability, acceptability, and listings grow the critics of online learning get louder and more agitated. Somewhat surprisingly, the most dedicated opponents to online education are often academic professionals who are used to teaching in traditional brick and mortar settings and are slow to consider and appreciate the possibilities and benefits of online learning.
Indeed there are certain concerns with online education that are not easy to resolve. For example, several for-profit organizations have been known to charge students abhorrent fees and provide substandard education. There are high dropout rates at many of these institutions and any diplomas that are awarded by them are ones that few employers will consider legitimate. Furthermore, even if a student drops out without earning a degree they still must pay back the entirety of their loan amount. Although such unfortunate circumstances happen at even top-tier schools, it is far more common with relatively newly established “for profit” organizations.
From a purely academic standpoint, professors who teach online report that they are usually unable to know if the student who is enrolled in the class is actually writing the assigned papers and taking tests. Although plagiarism is a problem that can be found in traditional settings, it is a practice that is easier to get away with virtually and this occurs even in online classes conducted by respected establishments.
Due to student identity issues and problems concerning the combination of educational institutions and private sector businesses, many traditional academics have taken a negative stance toward online learning. This is unfortunate since it has limited many otherwise open minds to realizing how beneficial online learning can be to millions of people. Online learning certainly has some lingering problems to resolve, but its benefits outweigh its minus and this seems to be a fact that all too many education professionals ignore.
The emergence of the Internet and its subsequent alterations to the educational field have caused many traditional academics and learning institutions to rebuke the concept of virtual classrooms and many such protests are the result of a simple fear of change. Online classrooms are different from brick and mortar ones, but they are often just as lively and engaging as their physical counterparts. Although degrees such as medicine and the performing arts will always need to have hands-on elements, the vast majority of subjects could be completed totally online. However, for as long as academics drag their feet and refuse to implement online programs into their instructional rosters, there will be widespread gaps in the academic subjects available virtually and this bars many potential students from achieving higher education.
The Internet is merely the latest new technology that has been met with disregard from supposedly “innovative thinkers” such as college professors. When radio and television first presented themselves to mainstream society, many colleges and teachers treated them in largely the same fashion as they currently do the Internet. Television was regarded as something that bored housewives and small children engaged; not educated individuals. Yet as new generations were born and raised watching television, the medium started to become accepted and popular even amongst the most renowned minds. Currently, television stations like PBS and National Geographic offer televised programming that is so educationally rich that the shows are sometimes used as part of academic curriculums. Slowly but surely, the Internet is doing the same. There are scores of educational websites and apps on numerous topics and even the most respectable schools—such as the Ivy League Columbia University—are offering fully online programs.
Although it is impossible to foresee the future, it is not outlandish to assume that within the next decade or two more people will attend both school and work online rather than offline. Although the field and concept of online education currently finds itself under attack by many educators and professionals, those attacks are becoming more minimal each year. The Internet is the future of communication and an effective way in which we can become more intelligent and knowledgeable about many subjects. Hopefully every educational institution will soon recognize this and make attempts to satisfy public demand and provide opportunities for people to take top-notch classes virtually.