January 15, 2016 - Posted toWriting Tips
Years ago, some universities in the United States began a new, innovative program called “correspondence courses.” These were developed so that students who went home for the summer could take an extra course or so that working people could get in some college coursework on their own time. The student paid the tuition and received, by U.S. mail, the course syllabus, all of the assignments, and the textbook. As assignments were completed, they were mailed back to the instructor for grading. A final grade was given and mailed to the student, once all of the assignments were completed and submitted. There was virtually no communication between student and instructor, and, if there was, it occurred only as rapidly as the postal service delivery was.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
This early distance learning was the precursor to what has now exploded onto the educational scene – online education that has now expanded globally and offers students flexibility in both their programs and in their schedules of learning. There are many other advantages as well, particularly in some of the emerging and already-emerged nations around the globe.
E-Learning around the Globe
In order to understand the exponential growth of online learning, it is interesting to look at its expansion in some of the countries which have the highest growth rates of e-learning programs
The United States
The U.S. has led the world in online education, currently having hundreds of online colleges with full undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as thousands of online courses offered by some of the top universities in the country. Online learning has also seeped down to the secondary level, and a number of innovative states and school districts are implementing online learning that will enable students to complete their high school programs earlier than in a traditional environment, to allow students to take elective coursework that is not offered in their traditional high schools, or to allow handicapped children greater access to quality educational programming.
26 states now have public online universities, and in many states, high school students are required to take at least one online course for high school graduating, as a preparation for what educators see as the future of post-secondary education. And, of course, MOOC’s began in the U.S., with top universities offering free online coursework to anyone.
Among students, the reactions are mixed. At the high school level, many of them oppose the requirement of an online course. They claim that they do not do well in that type of learning environment and should not be forced into it.
At the university level, in those states where public online universities exist, student response has been quite positive. They can stay at home, work, and still attend college without the other expenses involved; they can mix online and on-campus coursework as well. In those states that do not have public online university programs, students are less positive. They can take free online courses from the major universities, but they do not lead to credits earned. In some instances, students may opt for credit, but the costs are really high. Nonetheless, by 2013, over 6 million students took at least one online course.
E-learning first became a viable option in South Africa – probably due to the fact that it was able to develop fiber-optic networking much faster than other countries on that continent. In fact, they have developed such national programs as EduNet and Thuton, both of which offer high school and college courses. Now, however, the concept has been embraced and is thriving. Ambient Insight, a U.S. based international research company, completed a report on international online education programming in 2011, and their forecasts for Africa have borne out. In Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, online learning opportunities and participation have exploded. And they have been helped by both national and international funding to expand Internet services and to develop e-learning centers and train teachers and content developers. For example, in 2012, the U.S. provided a $15.6 million grant to further grow the African Virtual University (AVU). Another cooperative effort between an East Indian online university (Bharathidasan University) and the Ghana African University College of Communications was able to launch an e-learning university in Ghana in 2013.
Asia is the fastest-growing e-learning region of the globe, led by India, China, Malaysia, and South Korea.
India has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and has become a real leader in higher education in Asia. In addition to developing several internationally recognized universities that are attracting students from all over Asia, India has been on top of online learning too. The big draw, of course, is that many young adults in India cannot afford to give up their jobs to attend school full-time. Online programs solve this problem for them. U.S.-based MOOC’s are also finding their way into India, and the certifications that students receive for completion are highly respected among employers there.
Currently, China has over 70 online universities, and the demand is high. Historically, china delivered distance education via radio and TV, but now that Internet capabilities are reaching more and more rural areas, students are flocking to online program opportunities.
South Korea is ahead of the game throughout Asia because it was among the first countries to blanket its entire population with Internet access. Traditional colleges and universities have all begun to offer online course options, along with 20+ strictly online colleges.
The one roadblock to continued high growth within the country itself is a cultural stigma still attached to e-learning. In this society, face-to-face education is still highly valued. But online universities are “selling” their programs all over the world, even offering a huge large number of courses in English. They have also developed a hybrid system of online and on-campus mixtures which Korean students seem to favor.
Asia e University, one of the largest online colleges in Asia is located in Malaysia and has solved a major problem for Malaysians who all have Internet access but who live long distances from universities and therefore could otherwise not attend college. This school has also developed partnerships with other universities from around the world to offer globally-related coursework, even as far away as Denmark.
In 2011, the government Online Learning Task Force recommended that the UK invest 100 million pounds to development of online education, not just for its own citizens but for English-speaking students all over the globe. A lot of this efforts was also the result of high college costs for students, as government subsidies began to be cut. Without access to online learning, many students were not going to be able to afford college at all.
Australia has seen greater than a 20% growth in online education enrollment in the past couple of years. Major “players” include Kaplan, Open Universities Australia, and Seek learning – all private online colleges. There are a number of initiatives now to serve students of Asia with online programs based in Australia, and some project that over the next decade, millions of students outside in Asia will be enrolled in Australian-based online colleges.
Online education is not going away. It is a healthy, booming, and quite necessary phenomenon, if we are to have an educated planet capable of becoming productive and of cooperating to solve the global problems that we will continue to face.