Online Education Casts a Wide Net

At one time, students who wanted to attend a good college or university would need good grades, strong test scores and a lot of money. As a result, many worthy individuals missed out on continuing their educations.

mouse connected to books (e-learning)


Today, thanks to video streaming, videoconferencing and the ability to share and edit documents online, anyone with an Internet connection can continue his or her educations online. Courses can be taken anywhere and on your own schedule. Some require tuition (though less than with physical classrooms), and offer credit or credentials, and many are free.

Traditional Colleges, Universities and Trade Schools

Initially, the online education landscape was dominated by for-profit schools like Devry, Kaplan and University of Phoenix.

Today, many traditional private and public universities are embracing online programs. More than 65 percent of chief academic officers at traditional schools report that online education is critical to their strategy. In 2010, more than 6.1 million enrolled students – or one in three – took at least one online course. Such courses are replacing many of the huge freshman-level survey classes.

Typically, texts, lessons and assignments are online. Usually, participants meet on a regular basis in a face-to-face seminar setting, or a videoconference, to discuss content and ask questions. Testing is conducted in a classroom or some other proctored setting.

In choosing any online education program, first consider accreditation, transferability of credits, graduation rate, tuition fees and student-loan repayment rates.

Free Massive Open Online Courses

Massive open online courses, commonly called MOOCs, are a recent and rapidly growing phenomenon. In 2011, a Stanford professor offered a free online course in artificial intelligence that attracted 160,000 students from 190 nations. Soon, he and a colleague launched their own companies.

Today, millions of students are enrolled in courses offered by Udacity, edX (a joint venture of Harvard and MIT) and Coursera. The courses offered by these sites can be taken for free, with no credit. For a small fee, participants can take a test and earn a certificate of completion.

Online Courses to Carry Credit

Shortly, more of these MOOCs will be offered for traditional college credit. In fall 2012, Colorado State University’s Global Campus became the first American institution to accept transfer credits from an introductory computer science course on Udacity. In 2013, students at Antioch University will be table to take one of three Coursera offerings for college credit

In the fall of 2013, an online education platform called 2U will feature courses from some of the nation’s top-ranked universities for college credit. Participating universities include Brandeis, Duke, Emory, Northwestern, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Washington University in St. Louis. 2U has partnered with graduate schools since 2008.

Forbes magazine recently called 2U one of 10 start-ups positioned to change the world. In Nov. 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced 13 grants, totaling more than $3 million, for MOOC research.

Educate Yourself on YouTube

More than 450 universities around the world, including 390 in the United and Canada, have established dedicated channels at Participating schools include Stanford, Harvard, Yale, UCLA, Dartmouth, Emory, Penn State and many others.

Courses are offered in engineering, science, mathematics, business, history, humanities, arts, medicine, language, law, education and social sciences. The courses are free. Because they offer no credit, most users are adult learners or students seeking another perspective on classroom materials.

An Education Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding online education as an alternative to traditional classroom education is evolving along with the technology and practice. Students as well as schools will be expected to sign and abide by new types of contracts and loan agreements. Each case is unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an education lawyer.

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