An increasing number of college students are moving their educational experience online, a beneficial trend for Missouri colleges that have seen enrollment drop 6.1 percent in the last 5 years and are facing a decrease in revenue. That growth in online education has schools bringing the brick-and-mortar experience to students who live nowhere near campus.
“A lot of colleges look at that as a market opportunity, and they see online as a way of achieving that,” said Beth Doyle, Vice President for Learning Counts, a group that promotes adult education.
But there are downsides to virtual learning, an industry that had 5.8 million students taking at least some online classes in 2015, according to the Online Learning Consortium. Studies show online students can have poor course discipline and don’t always stick with it. Plus, a 2013 Gallup Poll showed online courses were viewed as less rigorous than classes taught on campus.
To bring instruction up to par with an in-classroom experience, schools are trying to make their online programs more intense and interactive.
Though a 2013 Gallup Poll found there was still skepticism around online degree programs, opinions are steadily improving. Only 13 percent of those surveyed said an employer would think an online degree is better, but the number of Americans who said an online degree offers the same quality as a traditional one jumped from 30 percent to 37 percent from 2011 to 2013.
Read more: St. Louis Public Radio