14 March 2013

Can Brick-and-Mortar Institutions Maintain Their Prestige?

One of the oldest institutions in the Western world is the university. Institutions of higher learning have a history that stretches back nearly a millennium. The oldest continuously-operating university is the University of Bologna. This school, founded in 1088, will celebrate its 1,000th birthday later in this century. The oldest university in the United States, Harvard, dates to 1636. Earning a degree from on the of the top European universities or an Ivy League school in the United States gives its bearer a high degree of prestige in the employment marketplace.

The Growth of Online Education

Late in the twentieth century, online schools started to supplant the earlier correspondence schools that utilized snail mail for submitting and grading assignments. The online revolution changed education by offering high-quality classes to students who lived in just about any corner of the globe, as long as those students could access the Internet.

New students have flooded online classes and there is no sign that this relatively new phenomena is slowing. Recent studies have shown that there were over 6 million students completing at least one class in an online format in the Fall 2010 semester. The same study anticipated an increased growth in the number of students in the foreseeable future. The online education industry has seen growth rates that are around 10 percent. This increase in the number of online students far outpaces the 2 percent growth rate of regular face-to-face college classes.

Will Brick-and-Mortar Institutions Survive?

Online education is attractive to many college administrations. While there is quite a bit of expense required to pay for the computer hardware and the technicians who know how to maintain the systems, these expenses are much less than the cost of keeping up a large physical campus. Many schools, including some of the more impressive colleges and universities in the nation, are starting to see the benefit of the additional revenues that Internet classes can bring in. Even Harvard University offers extension courses online that can result in undergraduate and master's degrees. While the degrees are technically from the Harvard Extension School, there is little doubt that most people would find such a degree impressive because of the Harvard name.

Other prestigious schools are starting to offer MOOCs, or massively open online courses. Included in this list are Penn and Princeton. These open courses offer a certificate of completion rather than a degree. The proliferation of these courses shows that well-known schools are trying to enter the online education game.

Not All Are Jumping Online

While there may be a massive growth in the online education industry, the prestige that degrees from online schools carry is still under review. Some people wonder whether these degrees actually pay off in the long run in terms of better job prospects and increased income potential. There is also quite a bit of evidence that human resource managers view a degree from a brick-and-mortar school as more impressive than a degree earned over the Internet. A recent study showed that at least 49 percent of such managers held this low view of online education. However, there appears to be an increase in the overall number of human resource managers who view online degrees in a higher light.

There is little doubt that the growth of online classes will continue. While there may be more online classes, traditional schooling still has more respect. Therefore, it is unlikely that brick-and-mortar schools will go anywhere in the near future.

This article was composed by Jeffrey Worthington, a freelance writer who concentrates on education, online learning, innovations in educational technology, educational reform and other like topics; for those interested in nursing be sure to visit nursingclassesonline.net.