How Has Online Education Evolved?

Online education includes classes, seminars and other formats presented over the Internet. The use of online education has evolved in the last 2-3 decades to become a sophisticated, well-accepted and readily available means of delivering quality education. This article briefly describes the evolution of online education.

Beginnings of Online Education

In 1985, the first online degree program was made available by the National Technological University, according to Since then, the growth of online training and education has closely mirrored the success of the Internet. Now, not only are schools offering degree programs online, but some schools are completely online, meaning they have no physical location and operate completely on the Internet.

Important Facts About Online Education

Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees available
Prerequisites Varies, depending upon intended program of enrollment; a high school diploma, or equivalent, is typically required for enrollment in an associate's or bachelor's degree program
Concentrations Political science, operations management, psychology, public administration, sociology, information technologies, health promotion, criminal justice
Possible Careers Graphic designer, nuclear technician, fashion designer, engineer, budget analyst, multimedia artist, personal financial advisor, software developer, actuary

Evolving Availability of Online Education

During the late 1990s, technology improved to handle the increasing demand of Internet users for entertainment and educational devices. The availability of online classes increased substantially during this time, as businesses and organizations recognized the power of multimedia devices coupled with the worldwide presence of the Internet.

Jones International University was the first online, accredited college, opened in 1993. Soon more schools followed to establish their online presence, like the release of MIT's OpenCourseWare in 2002.

Sophisticated Delivery Methods for Online Education

Online education has become increasingly sophisticated in the presentation of materials. Students can see and hear the instructors through video- or audio-based lectures. In some instances, courses are taught interactively, so that students can participate in real time during the classes. Students are encouraged to join support and study groups through dedicated chat rooms.

A major occurrence in online education happened in 2011 when Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were introduced. Schools continue to compete in the online environment, looking for new ways to provide easy access to a college education on the Internet.

Acceptance and Accreditation of Online Education

As with any educational institution, accreditation is essential. This is true even for schools that are fully online. Lists of accrediting organizations published by the U.S. Department of Education include provisions for institutions that are primarily online. Many top-ranked universities include provisions for online delivery of classes. Some of these have thorough online education departments and award the same prestigious degree to online students as they do to on-campus students.

There isn't always full acceptance of online courses. As reported in a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board in 2012, the acceptance of online education as valuable and legitimate is still wavering. However, the survey also revealed that 77% of academic leaders thought, compared to learning in a physical classroom, online education was equal to or superior. Additionally, over 69% of chief academic officers think online learning is a critical part of long-term education strategies.

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