By Ángel Carrión Tavárez
It wasn’t too long ago when the only way to obtain a college education was to sit in a classroom, day after day, in an institution of higher learning. Courses by correspondence, radio, and television attempted to change this reality, but it is only now that, thanks to the Internet, it has become possible to study for a career and obtain a university degree without setting foot in a real classroom. This is opening a world of opportunities to people who otherwise would not be able to study and become a professional, with which to improve their opportunities and those of their families. This world of opportunities is the world of online education.
Online education is a form of learning based on virtual reality technology, mainly developed so people with geographical or time limitations can study. This teaching method is growing significantly in the United States as illustrated by the study Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, published by Babson Survey Research Group and The Sloan Consortium. According to the study, while growth of the overall higher education student population was less than 2 percent in the past year, the growth rate for online enrollments was 21 percent. The study also showed that nearly 39 percent of university students now take at least one course online.
This educational format is equally available to people of almost all demographic and migration profiles, and the cost varies as much as it does in traditional programs —which does not necessarily have anything to do with learning outcomes or quality. It is therefore advisable to research well and consider all available alternatives, both in the United States and abroad.
The biggest advantage of online education is precisely the possibility of studying in any place or time, as long as you have a computer and Internet connection. This means that it is possible to complete a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program at universities in many states or even countries, without the need to leave your home, family, or job. In addition, classes and studying can be accommodated to each person’s schedule and pace.
On the other hand, online education presents situations and challenges that must be considered; one of these is that it demands greater responsibility and discipline from the student; by not having a specific place or time to take classes, students might get distracted and fail to properly plan their activities and study schedules, consequently affecting their progress. In addition, not everything can be learned through the Internet, which means many disciplines, for example, in the natural sciences and healthcare, are not available online.
To start analyzing if online education is good for you, visit the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities’ website at www.minnesotaonline.org/students/distancelearningquiz.php and respond to the questions presented. You will receive an opinion and comment below each one of your answers that will help you know if this form of learning responds to your needs. After this exercise, if you consider that online education is an alternative for course enrollment or to study for profession, start by searching the Internet for universities and programs that interest you; for this you can visit the institutions’ websites or search under online education or distance learning.
The author is a university professor, consultant, and education strategist. For comments and more information please contact .