Colleges Go Online to Cut Costs in Tight Budgets

Universities and colleges may start offering more online courses due to the economic recession, according to researchers at the Sloan Consortium, a nonprofit dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education.

Preliminary results from Sloan's survey of online learning indicate that more than a fifth of students in higher education were taking at least one course online, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

Two-year colleges and public universities have shown the most interest in adding online courses to their curriculums. And now the economy may make online courses more popular, Jeff Seaman, the chief information officer of the consortium told The Industry Standard.

The flexibility of distance learning means that students can juggle work and family life more easily, he said. "Higher education institutions are telling us that they expect the current economic situation to lead to both more overall enrollments and more online enrollments," Seaman added.

However, instructors who participated in the survey indicated that online courses present several challenges, such as lack of face-to-face time between students and faculty. About 70% of the nearly 10,000 who participated in the survey said that online courses had inferior learning outcomes.

But professors are also saying there are some clear benefits to online courses, Seaman said.

"A shy student might not ever speak out in a classroom setting, where a few students can monopolize the discussion," he said. "Move that discussion online, where there is time to read and compose a response, and that same student can be fully involved."

The full survey results will be available in April.

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