When asked to imagine the typical early adopter of the latest technological wizardry, we tend to think of those people that economist and lifestyle guru Richard Florida has dubbed "the creative class." Young, educated, urban, cosmopolitan, and successful, members of the creative class you usually find in Starbucks holding an iPhone in one hand and a caramel macchiato in the other, as MacBook Air laptops stands open on the table in front of them. The creative class always surfs the front end of the demand curve. They represent the first responders to the alarms of hype sent out by such pied pipers as Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
This profile of the creative class has hardened into such a cultural stereotype that you find yourself surprised to learn that sometimes it's not the major metropoles but the bosky out-of-the-way places where technological innovation has managed to take hold and flourish. Such is the case in western New York State, where online learning has proven a great boon to both local high schools and area community colleges. An article in the April 21, 2011 edition of western New York's The Daily News reports that demand for online courses at local Genesee Community College has surged, and that the school has responded to this demand by transforming some 10 percent of its curricula into online courses.
This transformation has allowed for greater access to education for the folks of largely rural western New York. Flexibility and asynchrony, two of online learning's cardinal virtues, has led to increased rates of student success and satisfaction.
Of course, no matter how long online learning's reach proves, demand will always remain for traditional forms of education delivery, especially at the postsecondary level. All the rage now are so-called "hybrid courses," courses that blend web content with face-to-face interaction. An April 20, 2011 eCampus News article reports that many students enrolled in online-only curricula find themselves longing for traditional modes of interaction. Thus the need for hybrid classes is acutely felt among university administrators, who are seeking ways of meet this need.
Effecting this synthesis appears to be "job one" for the higher-education industry. Mitigating any potential sense of isolation that online-only students might feel represents an effective way of increasing the perceived value of the educational product on offer.