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We Are Living in the Age of Online Learning

Education has now traveled far past the days when online learning was a low-impact novelty embraced by a curious few. In 2017, web-based education has moved into the mainstream.

Online learning is changing the face of education.Earlier this week a former teaching colleague invited me to breakfast at one of our favorite eateries. We enjoyed catching up and chowing down on Breakfast Samplers, with extra bacon. Because bacon makes everything better — even funerals.


In between bites this young fellow wanted to discuss my opinion of the potential for online learning and teaching. Where are we headed and what are the benefits? I’m not entirely certain why younger people continue to ask my opinion about things. The older I become, the more confused life seems.


In any event, between bites I talked about the spreading popularity of online education and referenced a Learning House report, the Online College Students 2016: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences. The report shows an impressive increase in online learning and the changing demographics of online students.


Learning House queried 1,500 past, present, and prospective online college students about their demographics and reasons for pursuing an online education. Their responses show some interesting trends. For example, cost can lead to a reluctance to enroll in school, but it can be overcome with minor scholarship incentives, as little as $500 in most instances.


What came as no surprise was the finding that the percentage of students pursuing online computer science and IT degrees has more than doubled since 2014, from 9 percent to more than 20 percent. Additionally, the average age of online students is really declining. In 2016 the average age was 29, down from 36 just two years ago.


The main reason for the age drop is directly related to an increase in the number of younger students signing up for online courses. Since 2012, the number of online students in the 18-to-24-year-old demographic has more than doubled.