The Internet’s phenomenal growth does not, ironically, warrant a second thought. It is simply a widely accepted fact. Like the discovery of Fire and invention of the Wheel, the Internet is one of humanity’s greatest developments. More than half the entire world’s population is on the Internet today. From information searches to commerce to socializing, the Internet has changed the way we go about our lives. One major industry transformed by the Internet is the Education industry. The Internet has brought about new offerings in Education, which were inexistent before the Internet came around.
First, a glance at the Education industry. Despite the difficulty in obtaining precise statistics for the Education industry, most of them generally show the same trend – a growth in student enrollment, and subsequently, a rise in the value of the industry. A study by UNESCO showed that in 2014 alone, there were more than 200 million students enrolled in higher education institutes, with a gross enrollment ratio of 34%. This means that 34% of the population in the post-school age group (19-23) pursued some form of higher education. In 2000, there were only 100 million students (with an enrollment ratio of 19%) – the number of students doubled, with the ratio also almost doubling. In the early 2000s, the education industry was valued at US$2.3 trillion, with the value being more than double at US$4.9 trillion in 2015.
While education is still quite expensive (and unaffordable to many), people’s increased spending on education indicates the willingness to look past the costs and see the benefits – many perceive good education to be a prerequisite for commencing a successful career, and subsequently, obtaining wealth. With greater demand for education, there are several ‘offerings’ on the Internet to aid and cater to the students.
Massive(ly) Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are essentially courses delivered online through the various platforms – many top universities worldwide, as well as independent companies offer various courses. Students simply register on the platform and enroll into a course of their choice (for a price or free). Most MOOC students already have some form of higher education and often take the courses to augment their learning, or learn an altogether new subject. There are, however, certain courses, such as medicine, which are not yet offered through MOOCS, due to the nature of teaching the subject matter. Nonetheless, MOOCs offer a significantly different paradigm from the traditional model of teaching – a classroom filled with students physically and interacting with the teacher in real time.
In MOOCs, students can simply login on the platform from anywhere, using any device (with internet access), and self-pace themselves through the course material at their convenience (unlike traditional classrooms where students have to follow along the teacher’s pace). (While MOOCs typically offer higher education courses, several platforms are also developing teaching materials for the high school curriculum.) Another feature of these courses is that they are most of them are offered in various languages, thus attracting students who are not proficient in English – the lingua franca in education.
A survey in 2014 by a leading MOOC platform found that 72% of the nearly 52,000 respondents reported some form of career benefits (such as receiving a promotion or pay rise) after completing a course, while 62% of the respondents received some form of educational benefits (such as getting credits towards their degree). Predictably, the student enrollment in MOOCs is massive; in 2015, there were over 35 million student worldwide enrolled in MOOCs. The MOOC industry itself is substantial, being valued at US$1.83 billion in 2015, and expected to grow to US$8.5 billion by 2020.
In most courses (traditional and MOOCs), students are often given coursework, which is graded and that grade contributes to the students’ final grade for the course. The Internet has now also become a marketplace for students to obtain ‘assistance’ for their coursework (usually for written submissions). Students can simply go onto the website of one of the vendors and request for, say, a custom essay or research paper. A few details about the requirements of the assignment are entered (topic, area of focus, word count, expected grade, etc.) and a price is quoted. In a nutshell, students pay somebody else through these platforms – colloquially known as custom writing services – to do their assignments and submit it as their own.
While some students use these services because they do not understand what their assignment’s true requirements are, other use the service because they have a tight academic schedule, and ‘outsourcing’ the assignment would ease their burden. Most of the students who purchase custom written works are from non-native English speakers from Asia and Eastern Europe. This means that several students would not like their language inadequacy to affect the submission (and the grade). Then there are the obvious ones – the lazy students – who do not want to work on the assignment themselves and simply seek an easy solution for their assignment.
Whatever the reason may be, students continue to demand these services. One service provider claims that during ‘peak’ seasons, there are over 7000 students seeking writing services monthly on its website. And since there are over hundreds of such service providers, the total number of student purchasing essays and papers would be staggering. The number of students purchasing would be higher, but for a few reasons, such as the stigma against it (some academicians consider this plagiarism), while others were priced out by the rates. Nonetheless, it is still a substantial market in the Education industry; one which is continuously growing. The head of one of the service provides estimated (in 2016) the custom writing industry to be worth approximately US$125 million, while another company reported a 10% growth year-on-year.
The Internet has created a seismic change in our lives and how the world functions; one of the industries impacted is Education. From MOOCs to custom writing services, the Internet has something to offer to nearly anyone in the field of Education. Due to the growth of the Education industry, there is also substantial growth in MOOC and writing services industries. The high demand in both cases can mostly be attributed to convenience – for MOOCs, the chance to do a course at any pace from anywhere, in a variety of languages. As for purchasing assignments and essays online, it reduces the students’ workload (or simply allows them to shirk their responsibility).
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