Sr. Director, Marketing
Maybe it’s not immediately apparent, but rock ‘n’ roll and online education have something important in common.
You see, much like the musical phenomenon that changed the course of popular music in the ‘50s, online learning is proving to be a major disruptor. It’s changing how students learn.
Evidenced by a growth rate in online enrollments that far exceeds overall enrollment growth in higher education, many would agree that online learning rocks. Rather than making the trek to the classroom, millions of students are now taking to their computers, tablets and smartphones to get their courses in. Students and educators alike are finding that, compared to the digital model, traditional education is … well, just plain old-school.
Online learning is a fast growing industry in the Subscription Economy. As the popularity of online learning continues to grow the innovators in the field will continue to build new, refined models for educating online. It leaves one asking, just what is it about the digital format that makes it such an attractive choice?
Well, based on the perspectives of some industry innovators, here are five of the top reasons:
Making Time for Time Management
Historically, anyone wanting to take a course would need to be available at the time that course was offered and physically present for its duration. Aside from dedicated students going to campus full time, people ran into serious conflicts with this model, which is essentially set at odds with the demands of their busy day-to-day lives.
Online education is changing all that, allowing anyone to complete the coursework on their own time, and from the comfort of their own homes.
Brian Wetzel is the COO of Skubes, an online learning startup that aims to be the top provider of educational videos and interactive books for students in grades K-12. Even with his younger demographic, Wetzel sees convenience as being one of the online approach’s top benefits:
Online content is there 24/7 allowing parents with very busy work and children schedules to use the content when it best works for them. We have received emails from moms who allow their kids to use the iPad in the car while they are driving to ballet or baseball practice, so their kids can study.
Availability of Remote Accessibility
Aside from the time constraints of standard education, there has always been the issue of location. Traditionally, would-be students either had to settle for a school in their immediate vicinity if they wanted to stay close to home, or relocate. However, with top universities making courses and even whole degree programs available online, students have a range of options they previously never had.
Jonathan Ezor is the Director of the Touro Law Center for Innovation in Business, Law and Technology. With a background in both law and tech, Touro has been a part of his institution’s successful approach to combining the two, offering Internet-based law courses from a regional institution:
[One] benefit is access to institutions far beyond one’s own local community — although Touro Law is a regional law school, our online courses and seminars may be attended by students from anywhere in the world, and we are expanding our educational offerings to appeal to that broader audience.
Penny- and Dollar-Wise
Even though the rate is slowing, the cost of tuition has continued to rise. And it’s no secret that student loan debt continues to be a cumbersome financial burden on young individuals and families. So it shouldn’t be a big shock that many people are looking toward more cost-effective options than traditional higher education. Online courses can be an absolute steal in comparison.
Brooke Franks is the communications manager of ed2go, an online education company that partners with schools to enable their extended campus and online learning programs. With schools like Rutgers and Oregon State on her company’s client list, Franks sees the online option as offering cost savings for students attending any institution:
Online learning can be more affordable than traditional continuing education. By cutting out the cost of transportation (and print textbooks), students can cut the costs of continuing their education.
Fred Hurst, Senior Vice President for Extended Campuses at Northern Arizona University, agrees that affordability represents a major benefit for online learning. Under Hurst’s direction, the NAU extended campus program has developed a Personalized Learning approach that is competency-based. This means students are able to learn at their own pace, get credit for material they already know, and ultimately save time and money:
Personalized learning is particularly attractive to students because it is a flat-rate subscription ($2,500 for six months) for unlimited access to the program courses. Students are able to earn a high-quality degree more efficiently and at a lower cost, so they can advance both personally and professionally.
Efficient and Effective
In addition to showcasing the financial benefit of online learning models, Hurst’s NAU extended campus program highlights another unique capability of online education. Namely, by personalizing the learning experience, the technology platforms driving online education can provide a more efficient way of educating students. Hurst elaborates on this capability in the context of the NAU extended campus model:
… Students receive credit for what they already know. This allows for a student to bypass certain core, or basic, classes if he or she already possesses that knowledge, so they don’t spend time doing unnecessary coursework, thus creating a more efficient program for the student’s learning. While online learning isn’t necessarily new, competency-based education is the next evolution in this kind of learning that helps many students finish faster than they would in a traditional program.
Mike Echols, the Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and the Human Capital Lab at Bellevue University, finds significant potential in new, technology-driven education models such as these. Working regularly to help adults make difficult life decisions, Echols understands the psychology driving choices, and he sees plenty of reasons for students to choose online programs:
Online technology (which is much more than content on a computer screen), when deployed effectively to take advantage of the technology potential, is already superior to traditional classroom lecture-and-test. And my prognosis is that very soon (within a few years) the new will be far superior to the traditional face-to-face lecture-and-test in producing superior learning outcomes. This is particularly true in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, synthesis, analysis, team collaboration, innovation and communications.
Unique Opportunities for Engagement
More effective learning models driving superior outcomes sounds great. But what about having a little fun? Well, with the Internet offering all kinds of interactive and engaging possibilities, educators are able to introduce lots of ways that are more exciting than the standard, hour-long lecture.
Kate Salvan is an eLearning specialist at JoomlaLMS (the LMS stands for learning management system). An expert in interactive, online learning, Salvan emphasizes the ability for online programming to engage:
New technology makes it possible for instructors to create exciting new ways to learn online that engage students in ways that are more effective than a lecture hall with hundreds of students.
In his work with the K-12 age group, Bryan Wetzel also finds this to be a critical concept:
Teachers often tell us that getting kids to read is very difficult these days. They have grown up with not only TV, but computers, tablets, iPods, video games and more. When they turn on their smart boards, the kids perk up and pay attention no matter what’s on the screen. Online content is seen through a technology that most kids are now more comfortable with. While an older generation might think of consulting a book to find out how to fix a mechanical problem, today’s generation consults YouTube.
Just a Fad, or Something More?
So with all of these benefits and features much more in tune with modern lives, will the younger generation take to online learning models to a degree that is on par with (or greater than) traditional education?
Well, there are still those that would say it’s just a fad. But remember … that’s also what they said about rock ‘n’ roll.
Tell us what you think. In future posts, we’ll dig deeper into online education and the creative use of recurring revenue models.