In times of otherwise discouraging economic developments, one sector has reason for optimism. Distance learning higher education is doing boffo enrollment these days.
"A 2009 study by Eduventures shows that about 2.14 million students were earning their degrees using online education," reports a July 19, 2011 U.S. News and World Report article, "while the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning indicates that about 5.6 million people were taking at least one web-based class during the fall 2009 semester."
One state that has seen an appreciable enrollment increase is Pennsylvania. One county in particular -- Monroe -- has experienced across-the-board surges at all its area schools.
One Monroe County institution, Northhampton Community College, which has eleven online degree programs on offer, witnessed a 17 percent boost in summer Web course enrollment. This amounts to some 3,300 students studying in 300 sections of distance learning courses.
Sentiment among administrators at these schools is generally positive. They believe that distance learning technology has improved to the point at which it now rivals face-to-face instruction.
Legitimacy is the critical factor. The growing perception that online education, whether in the area of art, media, and design or corrections, is as effective as traditional classroom instruction can only mean a bright future, not only for distance learning, but learning generally.