US Colleges

Evolution of Online Degrees

Evolution of Online Degrees

 And as distance-learning programs continue to garner credibility with industries and employers, that number should rise considerably over the coming decade. Here’s why.

In the Beginning: The Age of Degree Mills

Those brave enough to test the waters of the birth of online education found a mixed bag. Most of the big-name schools offered only a few sparse courses online or snubbed the concept entirely. For example, the Washington Post reports that you can take business courses from Harvard Extension if you have online access. No one, however, can earn a Harvard MBA online.’ And because the Internet inevitably promotes commercialism, cardboard-fronted colleges began offering degrees based on life experiences (read: no academic rigor required). Degree mills allowed anyone to pay a small fee to receive a diploma that wasn’t worth much more than the card stock it was printed on.

Accreditation Arrives: More Schools, More Options

The notion that working students could earn a valid university education without compromising their professional or personal obligations was too valuable to die. The demand was too great, and colleges knew a good thing when they saw one. So distance learning followed the path of accreditation. Validation groups such as The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and The Higher Learning Commission began the arduous task of examining online degree programs and ensuring their applicability to learning and professionalism.

The Future of Online Education

With an economy that is unsure at best, students, recognize the potential of the online education. And so do investors. According to BloggingStocks, a slowing economy and corporate layoffs are sending the population of unemployed and mid-career changers back to online school. And AOL reveals that total degree enrollment in Apollo Group Inc., a player in the distance education industry, rose 11 percent to 345,300 students versus one year ago. The bottom line? The point where online learning meets meaningful accreditation has given distance education a renewed credibility.