A Shift In Online Learning Demographics and Resources

Jun 31 2014

More than 3 million Americans over 35 are enrolled in degree or certification teaching schools/classes, and almost a third do most classwork off campus. In response, universities and degree programs have begun offering a wider array of online courses and technology certifications. From the comfort and convenience of your home, you can earn degrees as diverse as an associate’s in healthcare administration, a bachelor’s in medieval philosophy, or a Java programming certification. Even fields that require on-site training such as nursing, physical therapy and teaching are now making the work available online using a creative blend of technology and effective instruction. Online certifications in the technology area are most likely offered as an alternative to physical classrooms, realizing that most in the IT industry cope with a grueling schedule largely dictated by the infrastructure and set up of technology environments.

Among online education’s biggest boosters is Robert Franek, vice president of publishing for the Princeton Review college and grad school guides. “It’s no longer a class of 15 students sitting around one faculty member,” he says. “Think of the diversity of ideas, backgrounds, and ages you get. That profoundly adds to the value of online education.”

As online learning becomes more popular we see different demographics on the charts, with more types of occupations offering advancements to groups that previously weren’t targeted. For example, spending hours in crowded lecture halls and commuting to a college campus aren’t really options for most working women. But, in today’s society, that doesn’t mean getting the latest certifications or advancing your studies is out of the picture. Online courses can get you to the next level with more ease than you may have anticipated.

With online classes, you can complete your course work at your convenience and at your own pace, all while remaining gainfully employed. Genevieve Howard, 39, received several technology certifications from different online forums. Her focus on educational technology led to her current job of managing some 22 web sites for a long list of clients. A working mom, she took all but one of her courses online, which allowed her to do the bulk of her studying at night and on weekends. Online learning made it possible for her to advance her career while maintaining the family structure she wanted to have.

An online professor with Princeton said in one of his courses there were students sitting in Saudi Arabia and Japan. The professor marveled at the exchange of ideas from different worlds. There is a sense of community and partnership in online education as it creates a strong bond between students as they try to enhance their learning experience.

With all of the online options out there, how do you know which ones are good? Fortunately, most of the major guides to U.S. colleges and universities now evaluate online programs along with brick-and-mortar institutions. The Princeton Review Complete Book of Colleges features 149 online degree programs, both public and private. Some of these programs, like the University of Phoenix, exist almost solely online, but many institutions, such as the University of South Florida and Florida State University, offer online programs in addition to those physically available on campus.