The Rapid Growth of Online Education

When the internet first started to gain popularity with the general population in the 1990s, speculation ran rampant about all of the possibilities this exciting technology could deliver. Some visionaries predicted that the internet would one day replace classrooms, allowing students to attend school from the comfort of their homes.

While traditional classrooms haven’t been replaced just yet, the growth of online education is happening at a meteoric pace. Education institutions and students alike are realizing the myriad of possibilities online learning presents. From the obvious convenience benefits of learning from home to the increased accessibility to higher education for students across the globe, the advantages of online education are sure to continue fueling its growth in the years to come.

Statistics Highlighting the Popularity of Online Learning

Just how popular have online classes become? Here are just a few of the many statistics highlighting the meteoric growth of this new education technology.

  • Approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009.
  • 2009 saw an increase of nearly 1 million online students over 2008. This 21% rise in enrollment was the largest year-to-year increase recorded in 8 years.
  • There was a 17% increase in online enrollment in 2008 compared to 2007.
  • 75% of U.S. universities reported that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses.
  • Nearly 30% of all higher education students in the U.S. take at least one online course.
  • By 2014, the number of students expected to be taking ALL of their classes online is 3.55 million.

Public Schools Start to Get in on the Action

When most people think of online learning, they think of higher education. To date, it has been mostly universities offer online education options, but now, many public schools in the United States are embracing this exciting technology as well.

Public schools see online classes as a tool to reach potential dropouts and to supplement normal instruction on days when classes are canceled due to weather or other factors.

In fact, some states are starting to require teachers to take special training to prepare for online teaching. K-12 schools are starting to incorporate more and more online classes into their curriculum to give students more options, teach independence, and improve the overall learning experience.

Why Online Education Continues to Grow

What is it about online education that’s so attractive to students? Online learning offers a range of undeniable benefits.

  • Convenience
  • Lower costs
  • More choices. Students can attend school anywhere in the world from home.
  • Improved interaction between student and instructor
  • Teaches independence
  • Diversity of opinion and knowledge

This list could go on and on, but as you can see from the statistics, the simple truth is that students and institutions love what online learning has to offer.

How Popular Will Online Education Become?

Each year, more and more students enroll in online classes. Universities and public schools continue to offer more online course options for students, and the rise in popularity of distance education just doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

As technology like electronic books and podcasts continues to become more prominent in mainstream culture, these tools will help to further the possibilities of online education.

Will online education ever completely make the traditional classroom obsolete? Maybe not. However, it will continue to increase the public’s access to quality, affordable education.

Guest Blogger: Vern Marker writes on behalf of a forensic psychology degree program and frequently blogs about industry careers.  You can follow him on Twitter@VernMarker.


Ira S Wolfe