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The internet has changed the way humans do — well, almost everything. For instance, instead of physically giving five bucks to a friend for buying coffee, one can Venmo them. Social circles are connected through Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and so on. Even grocery shopping can be done online thanks to Amazon. So why wouldn’t education follow this trend of improving the way in which humans live and interact?

Change can already be seen in higher education with massive open online courses (MOOCs).

There are criticisms associated with online learning models and how they are changing student-instructor interactions, but it is undeniable that we are on the cusp of a dramatic change to the education model. With everything else going digital, it’s just a matter of time until the web-based education technology model replaces the traditional classroom.

There are many reasons why online learning has grown and continues to be popular all over the world. The benefits of online learning and MOOCs are just too great to ignore, especially with the internet becoming so universal. Online courses have been on the rise most notably for their affordability. Higher education is expensive, so much so that only a small amount of the world’s population can afford it. This movement toward online classes has raised more awareness for higher learning that people can easily access and afford.

While a college degree could cost anywhere around $60,000 (this would be a complete bargain) to significantly more for private universities, online courses provide an equivalent degree but cost dramatically less. Imagine learning from instructors at prestigious colleges such as  Georgetown or Princeton through online courses for the fraction of the cost of general tuition.

There are even free course options through schools such as MIT, Harvard and UC Berkeley.

MOOCs are designed to be free for participants and open to anyone. Since the cost of overhead for online courses is notably less than that of brick-and-mortar universities, all sorts of subjects can be taught online for free.

By providing students the ability to enroll in courses on their time and at their pace, online learning systems are far more convenient than in-person classes. To make up for the loss of a classroom community, online forums and groups are built around courses so that one can connect with other students and instructors from around the world.

Online education offers more flexibility than a traditional education model in terms of when, where, what and how much one wants to learn. Since learners are in control, online courses allow for a whole new level of freedom.

Whether or not one wants career-oriented classes or a chance to learn about an extraneous topic, MOOCs offer numerous opportunities. With companies like edX and institutions such as Stanford working together, higher education classes are available to people for a variety of reasons.

Again, the world is evolving with new technologies and if one can’t keep up, being left behind is a possibility. Specifically, chances of getting hired are much lower if the applicant can’t prove that they have a dynamic learning style that embraces new ways of learning. Online courses can now easily help boost knowledge and skillsets to make people more hireable. Certification programs are also making gains in the online learning space. For example, in the accounting field, there are lots of certifications, such as the CIA, CPA and CMA.

MOOCs launched in the early 2000s, and by 2012, there were more than 6.7 million students who took at least one online course, according to the Babson College study. Despite this high enrollment population, the online learning model still receives criticism.

Of all the learners from the study mentioned above, 95 percent of students dropped their classes before receiving a completion certification. This surprising statistic shouldn’t be a concern, according to researchers like Andrew Ho and Isaac Chuang. These low completion rates are not an accurate criterion for success because so many of these courses are offered for free, eliminating the motivation to complete the course.

Also, the goal for many is not to complete the course, but to push themselves to learn more about something they would not have been able to without the access of an online course. And for these intellectually motivated students, the flexibility and convenience of online learning is looking increasingly bright.

Article By Amy Spears

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