What’s New in Online Education

When the idea of online education first began to emerge, it had its critics. Those critics hung around for several years trying to downplay the important role that online education would one day play around the world. Well, that one day is essentially upon us, as even the top universities around the world have begun to embrace the idea of offering online courses. From new institutions that focus completely on online education to top universities offering courses and degrees, learning online is certainly here to stay!

The News
Online courses have become popular among students around the country. They offer students the opportunity to study at any college, regardless of where they live, and do it from the comfort of their home. Not only does it save the gas of driving back and forth to campus, but it saves the time involved as well. Between the time and money it saves, many students are finding that it just may be the most convenient way to earn college credits, or to just learn more about a particular subject.

When it comes to the news surrounding online education, it doesn’t take long to realize that it is a growing area in the field. School districts around the country are now offering virtual classrooms, and entire degrees and programs are being offered that can be completed online. From the smallest of children to those returning to school after being out 20 years, there are courses available for everyone.

Here’s a recap of what is going on in online education at some of the newer and historical learning institutes around the world:

•    Minerva Project – For those who want an Ivy League education, but either don’t make it into their small number of acceptances each year, or that can’t afford the tuition, they may want to consider the Minerva Project. The brainchild of Ben Nelson, who was once the CEO of Snapfish, the online learning institute aims to provide an online Ivy League education for middle class students and keeps the yearly tuition under $20,000. The project has received $25 million in seed money to get started. One big draw at this potential Ivy League pick is that they don’t look at applications and base their decision on one’s ability to make a donation, athletic ability, etc.
•    Udacity – This online educational institution does things a little different. They are offering university level courses, but they don’t charge tuition. Thousands of students are taking courses taught by leaders in the field, for free. Courses include those in computer programming, robotics, Web application engineering, and more. When Udacity offered their first online course, they found that they had over 160,000 people, from 190 countries around the world, interested in taking it.
•    Khan Academy – The Khan Academy has been designed to give middle and high school students a leg up. They can take a variety of online courses, including viewing over 3,200 videos and then have the ability to get hands-on experiences with professors while in class. Their team of founders has created a world-wide educational opportunity that provides online courses. At the Khan Academy, they offer all their tools and resources to anyone in the world, free of charge. Homeschoolers to professors can access their online courses, as they aim to change education for the better.
•    Coursera – Want to take an online course from Princeton, Harvard, or the University of Michigan? How about taking one for free? That’s exactly what thousands of students are finding at Coursera. Their online courses are designed to help people master a subject.They are offered through leading universities, all for free. Courses are offered in mathematics and statistics, healthcare, medicine, biology, networks and information, computer science, economics, finance, and business, as well as humanities and social sciences.
•    MITx and edX – As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, MIT is bringing the benefits of online education to the world, also for free. MITx was the initial online courses being offered through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but they have recently teamed up with Harvard University to bring the world edX. Now known as edX, the two universities are offering online courses using open-source technology. The courses are available to anyone in the world, and there is no admission process that needs to be met. Their upcoming online course covers circuits and electronics.
•    Yale – Aiming to provide an education to anyone who is interested in learning, Yale University is offering free online courses. The lectures that students can watch in the online courses have all been recorded in Yale classrooms, and there is no registration required. Although students do not earn a degree or credit for taking the courses, they do gain the knowledge and the experience of what it’s like to take a Yale class. Online course offerings include African American History, Hemingway, Freshman Organic Chemistry, Ancient Greek History, Principles of Evolution, Game Theory, Environmental Politics, The Civil War, Psychology, and many others.
•    University of Cambridge – Known as one of the leading universities in the world, the University of Cambridge has also added online courses to its line-up. Students from anywhere in the world can take a variety of courses online. Current online course offerings include creative writing, forensic science, psychology, Ancient Rome, understanding the atom, and philosophy of film, among others. While there is a fee for the online courses, they do offer a free “taster” of them, so that students can get a feel for the format and course material, before paying committing to pay for the course.
•    University of Oxford – Those who want to earn a certificate online from one of the best colleges in the world can now do so through the University of Oxford. Their courses are available online to anyone around the world, and they can be applied for credit toward the Certificate of Higher Education. Earning the certificate takes two to four years of online study, giving students the ability to slow the pace of their studies if they need to. Their online courses are structured to follow a weekly meeting format and last 5-10 weeks.

In Other News
There are many universities around the country, in addition to the lead ones, that are now offering online courses, and even complete online degree programs. Take, for example, Washington University, who recently announced the addition of an online law degree that can be obtained by those who will be practicing law overseas. Likewise, the University of Florida recently announced that will begin offering a completely online master’s degree in the area of music education, with the program completely adapted from their on-campus program.

The University of California, Irvine, recently added a new course to their line-up of offerings, called “Sustainability and Green Initiatives for Environmental Safety and Facility Professionals.” Montana State University has announced that they are offering two online courses this summer in Spanish. One is aimed at educational professionals, while the other is geared for business professionals.

Across the board, from K-12 schools and community college, and up through the top universities around the world, online education has become a hot topic. It is one that is no longer being looked down upon. Rather, now leaders in these schools are looking for ways that they can offer the courses, including both free and for fee ones, to the world. Educational experts at these institutions are seeking ways to overcome any challenges that may arise.

Online Challenges
In discussing the news in the online education sector, it is important to note the concerns and challenges that are being discussed, as well as tackled. For example, at the University of Iowa they recently announced that in an effort to help combat any security issues, they will begin requiring that students taking online courses must take their final exam in person. They are also required to show proof of identification when they show up to take it, because the teachers have often never met the students before the final exam day.

As online courses, and online degrees, continue to grow in popularity, universities around the world will continue to look for ways to combat such security challenges. In order to maintain the integrity of the program, and online education as a whole, universities will continue to seek ways to address potential problems.

Staying Power
Online courses at one time seemed like something that couldn’t be done. And when it was done, people said it couldn’t be done correctly. But as the recent news of all the online courses being offered indicates, a lot of progress has been made in the area. Some would argue that there is still a lot of progress to be made. Clearly, the sector is growing in leaps and bounds.

When places like Yale, Harvard, and Princeton all begin offering online courses, it is a clear indicator that online education has come a long way. For many, it is a clear sign that online education is to be taken seriously. For everyone, it is also a clear sign that it is here to stay.