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Article: Online Education Outlook for 2006

By Marianne Salina
January 31, 2006
Online Education Degrees Contributor

We've seen enrollment in online schools skyrocket and the outlook for 2006 looks even stronger. Find out how technology and educational resources are working together to offer a superior learning experience online.

Okay, so 2006 may be the Year of the Dog, but it also happens to be the year for online education and digital technology. In 2003 and 2004, enrollment in online degree programs experienced notable increases each year, and now approximately half of the colleges and universities in the United States report that distance learning plays a major role in their long-term plans. Is online education simply a flash fire trend that will eventually fade to a glimmer? The statistics proclaim a resounding "no," but don't rely on just the numbers. Students and professors alike are finding online education provides the resources, tools, and interaction needed for a quality learning experience. The outlook appears even stronger for 2006.

What Exactly Is the Technology These Days?

If you feel like you've slept through all of the recent leaps and bounds in digital technology, don't worry: we're here to help you learn. Distance learning, e-learning, online degrees-they're all pretty much the same thing: they refer to courses and degree programs offered by many of the same colleges and universities people attend face-to-face. You can pursue virtually any type of study from a 2-year certificate to a graduate degree; the difference is that you do all of the work outside the classroom. The other major components are:

  • Web-based Material: Homework assignments and lecture materials appear on a classroom Web-posting. Students are often directed to read other online materials, fulfill written assignments, or take written exams.
  • Communication: With the absence of the classroom, students participate and engage in course materials through email and interactive chat room discussions. Professors frequently pose questions and guide these conversations.
  • Independent Schedules: While most online courses follow a quarter or semester system, the student determines the class schedule that works best.
How Will Online Learning Change?

Online education has been especially beneficial for students whose work schedules or family lives require their presence outside of the classroom. This means that mothers and fathers are going back for their MBA's and students in other countries are receiving college degrees. In 2003-2004, online education proved to be just as effective as face-to-face learning, but in 2006 and beyond, more employers and other academic institutions will give these programs proper recognition. With 65% of schools providing online graduate degrees and more companies creating online jobs, employment and status for online degree recipients looks bright for 2006.

Learning Becomes More Independent

Online degree programs are burgeoning with more students and greater resources, but the progress doesn't stop with the computer. Technology experts predict that 2006 will see tremendous growth in the utilization of pod casting, blogs, Web casts, CDs, and DVDs for the application of learning materials. Many believe in fact, that as mobile technology moves forward, online education will take place on such portable devices as iPods and handhelds-allowing students even more freedom with their location and mode of learning. With digital education moving at such an accelerated rate, our best hope is to catch up by 2007.

  • "Predictions for 2006" eLearn Magazine, By Lisa Neal, Jan. 19th, 2006,
  • Future in Online Education, Online College Education Network (OCEN),
  • "Growing By Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005", The Sloan Consortium,
About the Author:
Marianne Salina is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington. She writes about pursuits in education and degree opportunities.