Online higher education is steadily gaining favor as a credible alternative to the traditional classroom. According to a recent Gallup report, more U.S. adults agree or strongly agree that online colleges and universities offer high-quality education (37 percent) than did so in 2012 (33 percent) or 2011 (30 percent) when Gallup first introduced the report.
Although far more Americans agree that community colleges and traditional universities offer high-quality education (58 and 77 percent, respectively), increasing consumer trust in online education is notable. Online higher education has been a divisive issue amongst academics for years, seen by many as convenient and affordable but unremarkable in value and legitimacy.
When online education went toe-to-toe with traditional classroom-based learning in another recent Gallup report, Americans considered online better at “providing a wide range of options for curriculum” and offering “good value for the money.” Traditional education overshadowed this accomplishment, however, besting online in areas such as instruction, rigor, employer favorability, and student format.
In this regard, Gallup posits:
Although online colleges and universities are still in their nascent stage…findings seem to indicate an increasing acceptance of internet-based education as a viable alternative to other more traditional institutions. As online colleges continue to grow and adapt to the needs of students and the marketplace, they have the potential to lower costs and increase accessibility to higher education, while imparting knowledge and skills that may be more relevant to today’s high-tech employers.
Online education still has a fair amount of ground to cover. Only 15 percent of Americans believe online is better at “providing high-quality instruction from well-qualified instructors” than traditional classroom-based learning and even less (5 percent) believe online courses provide “excellent” material.
The bottom line in all of this, however, is that online education is stirring American interest. Eight percent of young adults are currently enrolled in online courses as access and affordability play a more prominent role in academic discussion. Seen as offering immense potential for advanced learning, make no doubt that as online education continues to expand and mature, so will its reception.