Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Our opinion: online classes a positive force

Posted on October 23, 2013 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

The Babson Research group found that nationally there was a 10.1 percent increase in online class enrollment from 2010 to 2011, despite an unparalleled 0.2 percent drop in total college enrollment. This means that online enrollment has grown a massive 10.3 percent ahead of national enrollment rates, with no sign of slowing.

When things change rapidly, there’s bound to be some anxiety about that change and at least healthy amount of skepticism. Naturally, then, many people are concerned with how higher education as a whole will change.

Anyone who has ever taken an online course could tell you how different the experience is from the face to face classroom experience––that’s hardly debated. If you ask students if they liked the online course, if it was as productive on campus courses, you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers.

Online courses can be good and they can also go terribly wrong, but it’s not inherent to the medium of internet learning. Online courses have not been around for very long, and with anything, there is a learning curve. This learning curve applies to several players in the process, including the administration of a school, programmers involved in course portals, professors, and students. All of these players have unique challenges in acclimating to and improving the online class structure.
As online education grows and expands, there will be a compounding increase of quality and ease of access in online education. Aside from that, online courses will provide an opportunity for many more people to continue their educations. Maine is largely a rural state, and for adults with careers, moving to the nearest city to complete a degree can be out of the question, while an online course, or hybrid course involving both in-class and online elements, can be accessed by thousands throughout the state.

The University of Maine System has addressed that issue with a goal laid out in its 2012 Board of Trustees Goals and Actions. Directive IIIb. states that online and hybrid credit hours should reach 20 percent of all UMS credits by 2015 in order to help more working adults gain access to degree programs. A modern economy requires an educated workforce, and online courses will help Maine get the workforce it needs, and Maine workers the jobs they deserve.