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More Students Enrolling in Online Classes

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In 2011, Stanford University debuted the Massive Open Online Course format, which allows an unlimited number of students to take an online course for free. Online learning offers the kind of flexibility that appeals to busy students, so more colleges are expanding their online curriculum. And high schools are beginning to offer more online options, too.

According to the Babson Research Survey Group, from 2003 to 2011, the overall growth rate for college enrollment was less than one percent, but the growth rate for enrollment in online degree programs was 10 percent. The Babson study also found that nearly 80 percent of administrators at public universities said online education is a critical component of their long-term strategy.

High school students who have the option to take online courses may find that experience better prepares them for college.

Developing Important Skills

Self-discipline and time management are two skills that help students succeed in online classes, but sometimes those skills are best learned through experience. Some high school students find that taking online classes forces them to develop their own methods for staying focused and on-track with their coursework. Those methods can work just as well when they take college courses online.

As online learning has become more popular, questions have arisen about whether it can be as effective as a traditional classroom education. When students are motivated and self-disciplined, online learning could actually be more effective than classroom learning.

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and China’s Tsinghua University conducted a study comparing traditional classes to online classes. At the beginning and end of a course, they tested MIT students on subject knowledge and found that in online courses, students’ overall improvement was equal to or better than that of students enrolled in traditional courses.

Online classes give students the ability to learn on their own schedule – at home, in a dorm room or wherever they choose to be.

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