Along with steaks, corn, insurance, and Warren Buffet, Nebraska can now count online education as one of its economic drivers. A December 2, 2010 1011Now.com story reports that The University of Nebraska has seen its online course enrollment jump by 30 percent last year, due to the popularity of its distance learning platform, Online Worldwide. The story quotes university president James B. Milliken, who offered his enthusiastic appraisal of Online Worldwide, and its role in the burgeoning online education market:
“Online learning is the fastest-growing segment of higher education today, and the University of Nebraska is leveraging its historical expertise in this area to make a high-quality, affordable education available to students no matter where they live,” Milliken said. “Online Worldwide will be a key tool in increasing the level of educational attainment in Nebraska in order to ensure our state’s economic competitiveness – a goal I and many other state and education leaders share.”
The 1011.com story goes on to present some rather arresting bits of information concerning Online Worldwide's rousing success. The highlights include:
The University of Nebraska's getting out ahead of the distance-learning trend only promises big returns -- for the institution, in terms of much need tuition revenue, and for students, who can make best use of the flexibility and ease of access that online education provides.
Cornhuskers aren't the only ones who recognize which way the educational winds are blowing. In a December 1, 2010 piece for Technorati, Dona Collins observes how in terms of esteem and reputation online educational institutions are closing the gap on their "brick and mortar" competitors. "It wasn't long ago that employers considered a degree from a traditional college superior to that of an online college," Collins writes.
However, the Internet provided the opportunity for people to get an education from home and it wasn't long before traditional colleges picked up on the high demand. Now, it's not just online colleges that offer degree programs over the Internet; most colleges have programs and classes that you can take solely online. The wide acceptance of the general population and the fact that most colleges have implemented online programs, forced businesses to think otherwise.
The push in the direction of technologically delivered course content only makes sense as institutions look to the bottom line and search of ways to trim costs. And what better way to do so than by shifting emphasis away from the residential educational model, which demands huge resources. The problem thus becomes not so much one of space but of bandwidth. If the same -- or indeed more -- can be achieved with reliable servers, computers, and Internet connections, isn't it about time we said goodbye to the college lecture hall and student dorm? As Nebraskans are showing, give people a home where the buffalo roam, and they'll still manage to get a proper 21st century college education.