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Will Online Classes Replace Traditional Colleges In The Future?

Feb 29, 2008
The University of Phoenix boasts a student body of over 250,000, effectively making it the largest university in the United States according to student enrollment. However, other universities, like Devry, are quickly catching up. More and more, individuals are taking courses online due to the extreme flexibility it offers. With course curriculum's often half the length of traditional colleges, and the opportunity for a student to complete a degree program from the convenience of their own home, distance learning has emerged as a multi-billion dollar affair. Many wonder if this trend will continue until the total number of students enrolled in online programs surpasses the number of students enrolled at traditional campuses.

We are living in an age of total convenience. Time and technology have made it possible for individuals previously unable to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree because of time and family responsibilities the opportunity to now do so. And for some, a program that may have taken four years to complete in a traditional college setting can now be completed in two years thanks to shorter class duration.

However, does this mean that traditional education taken at a resident campus is dying? Because traditional campuses offer peer and teacher interaction, as well as a plethora of other important benefits often sought by traditional, college-aged students, there will remain a need for traditional education. Research has shown that students who interact face-to-face with their instructors and other students tend to be more academically balanced than their online counterparts. This is one reason why most employers still prefer students who have attended traditional campuses.

Online classes are cheaper overall than traditional classes, and that is because they have eliminated a lot of the middle costs. Traditional students may end up paying up to seventy percent more than their online colleagues for the same course, because of such costs like transportation, food, and room and board. This however, has not deterred traditional students who have all the more surged in their enrollment numbers. Since students who graduate in traditional degrees are paid more than their online counterparts, they figure that it is worth it in the long run for them to spend astronomical amounts in tuition, room and board, food and transportation.

Even though the number of enrolled online students is on the increase, in part as residential students continue to register more frequently in online classes on the side, the numbers of traditional students are unlikely to drop as a result of the increase in the number of online students. You can count on the student body of distance learners to continue becoming older as far as median age is concerned, because more and more older adults are choosing to return to college. In the coming years, it is true that the number of distant learners will increase, but the number of students enrolled at a traditional college will not suffer.
About the Author
Ronald Kennedy is Executive Director of Distance Learning for Liberty University. Overseeing a school with over 22,000 students has given Ron a special insight into the mind of the online student. Ron can be contacted at Liberty University Online or at Ron@RonaldKennedy.com.
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