The NYU Dispatch

The Digital Age of Education and the Rise of Online Learning Solutions

The worldwide spread of the digital mediums and the ever-increasing access to the Internet has made a strong impact on various disciplines of human life. Some of the well-known cases include the shift from traditional trade exchange into e-commerce, the move from mainstream marketing into the digital marketing, and the rise of interactive business platforms, start-ups and solutions at the expense of outdated corporate bureaucracies and face-to-face formal boardroom meetings. However, in addition to these movements, another phenomenon that has spread significantly in the recent years and that deserves a special attention relates to the field of education and notably the widespread appearance of online educational courses. As a result, the traditional education system in general and the higher-education level in specific, are now facing significant uncertainties related with their future operations.      

One factor contributing to the shift from traditional to online education is purely a financial one. It can be traced back to the financial crisis and the economic recession that swept the United States and then the entire developed markets from 2007/2008 onwards. Entrepreneurs and consumers returned their attention towards alternative low-cost and innovative options in many areas including education. In fact, education itself constituted one of the few sectors with solid growth potentials due to the growing demand for specialization among the aspiring students and job seekers in a more competitive environment. Thus, the new market landscape forced many entrepreneurs and consumers alike to adapt to the new circumstances in order to compete effectively and save costs.  

In the area of education, the ones that have refused to adapt and redesign themselves are none other than the established universities. In fact, they have done the opposite. By passing all of their rising costs on to their students, they have made themselves financially unattractive options. Across the United States, public universities increased their fees by 27% during the five-year period 2007-2012. Following on a report from the Economist, by 2014 the average fees into these U.S. institutions amounted to about $8,400 for students studying in state and more than $19,000 for other non-resident students. In the same year, the average tuition into U.S. private colleges exceeded $30,000. Furthermore, the unwillingness of the central government to provide subsidies for such academic institutions and their academic research process meant that these rising costs had become an endemic problem.

Another factor that has contributed to the rise of the digital learning is the so-called technological revolution that sprung out as the developed economies renewed themselves. A simple app offering online lessons could now be a more efficient and convenient educational tool than a whole traditional academic course. The whole technological movement has shaped the mindset of an entire young generation. The traditional concepts of education and career took new dimensions. As the impact of technology increases, so the demand for education and re-training increases as people try to keep up with the fast pace of these changes. Bloggers from the Huffington post have confirmed this trend and noted the tendency of the many to pursue online courses and return into alternative training programs.

The so-called technological revolution has especially been characterized by an outstanding spread of smart digital devices. The latter represents one of the main causes that have fueled the rise for online educational alternatives. Traditional educational institutes are now being challenged by what are known as massive open online courses (MOOCs). Even important reputable institutions such as the Harvard University with its HarvardX platform have joined the online course movement. In addition, online courses such as the PRINCE2 Foundation Certification Training have changed the learning approach not only in the broader sense but also within the digital context.  

The ever-increasing presence of both students and courses on the web combined with the low-cost of establishing and pursuing such a venture has already made the online educational alternative superior towards the traditional educational system. From 2012 when the idea of the MOOC created its first wave of excitement until now, the online teaching methods are still in their heydays and still having a solid growth potential. They are not only attracting students that value the online education more suitable than the traditional education but also attracting students already graduated in established educational institutes. The later have wisely decided to complement their traditional degree with another one acquired online.    

Aspiring entrepreneurs are also leveraging on the opportunity provided by the online course movement. By creating their own online courses and sharing their accumulated knowledge and experience through comprehensive software tools, these coaches are getting otherwise impossible financial benefits and are receiving deserving credits for their work. Their talent and passion have created a disruption in the educational system that can be compared with the same disruption that low-cost bloggers created in the spheres of publishing and journalism a few years ago. The opportunities are enormous. Not only are they teaching their own courses online but also are teaching how to teach. This is the case of Joseph Michael, whose success caught the attention of Forbes featuring him in an exclusive written interview.        

Although the online teaching solutions seem to be gaining the upper hand, the traditional educational institutions have still a lot to offer. A recent publication from Rasmussen College states that established universities should especially count on an important feature that most online courses lack: the human capital and especially the real social relationships traditional institutions provide. It is for this lack of the real social element that online and distant learning methods are also moving towards a new approach that is being referred to as the blended education model. According to this model, online courses are combined with face-to-face class meetings and open discussions. It seems that both traditional and online education providers may be happy to merge with each other in the future.     

This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.

3 thoughts on “The Digital Age of Education and the Rise of Online Learning Solutions”

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  3. Digital transformation already booms in the market. Your article is absolute gold for my work. I am an online trainer and I love to teach online rather than regular classroom training. This virtual world has more response and engagement rather than traditional way of training. Online teaching has a drastic growth and many courses are coming up only to access online. The most advantage of online training is completely free of cost anybody can avail same course content from anywhere in the world.

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