NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Growth in Online Courses

June 4, 2014

Growing numbers of online courses are reducing costs, according to The Hill.

Online courses have emerged in both secondary and postsecondary education, but colleges and universities have seen the largest increase in online courses, as they attempt to attract students who need the flexibility offered by online classes. Students with family or career obligations are able to benefit from the online framework and can participate in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from their homes. Moreover, the classes come without the added hassle of limited enrollment and high tuition costs.

  • The Georgia Institute of Technology is offering an online Master's program in Computer Science on a MOOC platform, the first to offer such a course.
  • The class is inexpensive, and according to professor Charles Isbell, its availability to anyone with an internet connection "promises to expand the global population of trained computing professionals."

While online courses seem promising, Congressman Ron Kline (R-Minn.) says that federal regulations threaten to hinder online course innovation. In 2010, the Department of Education passed regulations defining a college credit hour and requiring poorly performing colleges to get approval from the Department of Education to offer new programs, including online classes. These regulations, according to Kline, could slow online course development.

Online courses are also proving effective at the secondary level, giving students in rural areas opportunities to take classes to which they would otherwise lack access. Currently, 28 states have approved virtual schools. In 2012, more than 500,000 elementary and secondary students were enrolled part time or full time in online classes.

Source: Ramsey Cox, "Online classrooms resetting education," The Hill, June 2, 2014. 


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