By Maureen Aylward
A recent New York Times article outlines the growing trend of students obtaining college degrees in a variety of ways that incorporate online education as part of their strategy. We asked Zintro experts about their insights on the online education industry.
Herlic Sotillo, an expert in e-learning, says that the industry of online education will continue its progressive development in the coming years and will become a complement to traditional education, and in many cases, replace it, mainly in the levels of university education and job training. “The cost of training workers is decreases if you develop virtual training programs that are well designed and use different tool,” he says. “Academic institutions should be looking for ways to gradually adapt their programs to the online education system and see which mode is feasible to implement and how to present it. It is important to have specialists and experts in instructional design, content-area knowledge and processes that will address e-learning to develop educational projects that make a significant impact, which is why educational organizations should invest in staff training in the management and use of online education tools.”
Krish Sailam, an expert in education lead generation online, thinks that academic institutions need to consider if online programming will dilute the brand name, image, and degree earning power from the institution. “If students pay a premium they want premium quality that is somewhat exclusive,” says Sailam. “Students do not react well to an institution offering online courses to help the bottom line (high rev, low costs). It is a deadly path to follow and may lead to brand destruction and alumni dilution.” However, Sailam says the online model is valid, but there needs to be a societal conditioning of at least one to two generations to make sure students are capable of learning well online. There also needs to be a shift in how professors teach online.
Tom Coffey, a human resource consultant, says that online education has been increasingly utilized over the past 10 years for a variety of reasons. A primary factor is convenience for the student to have flexibility in scheduling and completing assignments. “There is no need to commute to a physical structure to obtain learning or attend a training event,” says Coffey. “Courses and assignments can be accessed at any time, with submissions being transmitted to the instructor through an online Dropbox. Some classes have virtual links with the instructor or chat sessions included in the syllabus, while also having email contact availability between instructor and student through the web portal.”
Coffey says that a primary learning source for student is the online interactions with other students through threaded discussions in which topic material is discussed with each student contributing. “Part of the grading process for courses is linked to student participation in these discussions. Learning and application is broadened from the students discussing concepts and applications, many times relating to past experiences in answering questions posed by the instructor or course designer,” he says.
The impact on traditional academic institutions is that most have adopted an online presence to complement the traditional classroom environment. In many institutions, the online presence has exceeded the physical enrollment, and this trend will continue to increase in the future.
Giuseppe Lovecchio, a supply chain management consultant, says that online education is the new frontier, especially when it is blended with some physical meetings. “In this way you reduce waste in useless travel and accommodation costs, better manage and control the progress of the students, and have a simple, quick, interactive sharing of digital documents. Spot physical meeting will allow a clarification of all the remaining points,” he says. “This online approach is compliant with sustainable approaches that are urgently needed in the next future, without sacrificing the quality of the educational journey, but improving it.”
Kimberly Howard, a financial planner, says that online education is taking a back seat due to the economy. “Once recovery moves forward, companies will be expecting employees to get back into expanding their knowledge. More people who are employed uses online education versus traditional education. Once people have more income, they will return to online four-year programs. The flexible of the online classes will out weight traditional programs as long as people feel they have the money resources,” she says.
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