How E-learning and online universities are causing long overdue changes in education
By Max Reeves
Edited by Jonny Belk
“Want a good job? Go to college.”
This traditional adage has reverberated through the ears of youth since the industrial era. Any young soul seeking direction is told that their best bet is to stay in school and go to college, and this advice rings true today.
The problem is that the world today is not what it was even a few years ago. The market that today’s youth are facing is not the market that their parents thrived in, and the opportunities of yesterday are a distant memory to the world today.
Whereas a college degree once guaranteed a great career, today, it is more a prerequisite to be considered for the part.
The reality is that today’s youth really ought to get a college degree. But they face an interesting predicament: to survive in today’s market, many college-aged youths must take on the burden of a full-time job.
Many of these jobs are entry-level and require a degree to advance, so they must obtain a degree if they don’t wish to stagnate. But the time-dedication required to succeed in academic studies is beyond their reach when weighed down by a full-time job.
A student who misses their classes due to prioritizing shifts will likely either be dropped or fall behind in their studies. Conversely, a student who misses shifts to focus on their classes may lose their job and face the streets.
Thankfully, some tech-savvy universities have acknowledged the unmet needs of the working-class student and provided a solution: earn your degree online, at your own pace.
The online model encountered its fair share of road blocks in its infancy. Much of the population either didn’t have reliable internet access or were not tech-savvy enough to complete an online degree. Corrupt diploma mills sprung up and tarnished the public image of the industry, and universities had to fight an uphill battle to earn accreditation in an actively hostile legislative arena.
Today, many reputable institutions have overcome these obstacles and are positively impacting the lives of students who would otherwise have no way to obtain a degree.
One such institution is Western Governor’s University. Former president Barrack Obama acknowledged WGU as “one of the innovators implementing promising practices that ‘offer breakthroughs on cost, quality, or both.’” WGU offers many advantages to a traditional brick-and-mortar institution.
They provide merit-based degree programs, in which students pass classes by demonstrating competency in the course material. This opens the door for students who are already well-versed in the subject to avoid wasting time sitting in a course walking through ground they’ve already covered.
WGU also allows students to pay for each six-month term, rather than per credit. This means that diligent, hardworking students can progress more quickly through their coursework and pay a fraction of what a traditional brick-and-mortar university would cost.
The freedom that WGU provides for students to move at their own pace and segment their courses as they see fit can afford significantly reduced stress and pressure to meet deadlines. Students can design their own schedules and make room for study time around their working hours – a perk that brick-and-mortar universities simply can’t compete with.
WGU also provides students with a program mentor to help them navigate their studies, hold them responsible for meeting their goals, and motivate them when they are facing difficulties. The relationships students form with their mentors help them feel like they aren’t alone in their journey and affords them someone to acknowledge their accomplishments when they might not otherwise have someone to do so.
Not to be outdone, some of the most well-known brick-and-mortar universities have recognized the benefit of online education and have begun implementing their own online classes. The California State University system, for example, offers online courses and provides a system by the name of CSU Fully Online. It allows students the opportunity to enroll in one course per term that is offered by a CSU campus other than their home school.
The change couldn’t be more welcome, but the reality is that the university system will likely need to do more in the way of modernization if they wish to stay competitive. All undergraduate majors at California State University, Long Beach, for example, are “impacted,” meaning that there are more qualified applicants for the major than the university has the resources to accommodate.
Other big names switching over to full or partial online programs include: Harvard University; University of California, Los Angeles; Yale University; University of Utah; Oregon State University; and California State University, Fullerton.
What about E-Learning?
While it is beautiful that today’s youth have been granted opportunities to obtain their college degree, education isn’t always about a piece of paper. Some people simply wish to learn new skills, improve their knowledge on a topic, or gain some experience with a foreign language.
We live in a world of constant change, where staying competitive means consistently growing and adapting. A constant dedication to learning new skills is essential in certain fields, some of which didn’t even exist in the not-so-distant past.
Whether an individual is looking for professional growth or simply wishes to improve themselves, they will find that E-learning platforms have made it easy to achieve their goals.
Although they all have slightly different approaches, many online platforms have popped up in recent years to provide opportunities for growth. Platforms such as Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, Brilliant, Duolingo and LinkedIn Learning all provide online courses that teach useful skills to their users.
Brilliant focuses on teaching its users math, science, and computer science through interactive problem solving. Duolingo provides a game-like platform for learning foreign languages. LinkedIn Learning focuses on providing skills that can be used to advance in one’s career. Whatever your learning goal, there’s likely an E-learning platform somewhere that will help you achieve it, all without leaving the comfort of your home.
Whether you’re a youth looking to earn your degree and find your place in the world, an established professional looking to return to college, or simply someone looking to learn something new, online institutions and E-learning platforms have opened a door for you that might have been firmly shut less than a decade ago.
The European Renaissance saw the birth of humanism in the western world, which established a sort of optimism in the potential of human growth and achievement. The advent of the internet has made this notion even truer today than it was then.
The entire wealth of human knowledge has been placed at your fingertips, and certain industrious individuals have taken it upon themselves to neatly organize it for you.
The tools are there. Take advantage of them.