Online College Education

Christine Shakespeare, assistant vice president of continuing and professional education at Pace University, and her colleagues frequently describe the interrupted educational paths of their adult student population like this: “Life gets in the way.” By enrolling in online courses, however, students are able to reintegrate higher education into their lives without their studies getting in the way of their work or family commitments.

“We are dealing with an adult audience; many have started and stopped, ” she says.

Students who graduate from iPace, the online version of the undergraduate program at Pace University in New York, receive the same diploma as the traditional students. “Part of the myth is that online is easier, ” Shakespeare says. In actuality, students need to be self-disciplined and dedicate the same amount of time and effort as if they were participating in person, even if the majority of iPace students are part time, she notes.

As online options become more prevalent among universities, they are earning a reputation as an alternative, but not less prestigious, route. In addition to establishing programs targeting adult populations, some higher education institutions rely on new technology to increase traditional undergraduate and graduate student course and degree enrollment. The trend has influenced educational startup companies to offer innovative learning platforms and professional development opportunities.

Students working on an online class project.[Americans' Trust in Online Education Grows for Third Consecutive Year]

The online department at Washington State University grew out of a distance-learning program created in 1992. At that time, recorded lectures made up most of the material. “The whole process was very laborious, but it provided the chance for people to get a degree from WSU who wouldn’t be able to otherwise, ” says David Cillay, vice president of Washington State University Global Campus.

“As more interactive and collaborative tools became available, we began to experiment with how we could build a virtual community, ” he says. “We felt that we could deliver the full campus environment in an online environment.”

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