• Bill Gates Supports Online Education and So Should You

    In his 2010 Annual Letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates stated that "online learning can be more than lectures. Another element involves presenting information in an interactive form, which can be used to find out what a student knows and doesn't know." As the chairman and founder of Microsoft, Gates has extensive experience with technology and the internet. He believes that "technology is the only way to bring education back under control and expand it." The rise of online education gives students the chance to learn self-discipline and motivation in a flexible and convenient environment. It also enables students to explore new topics and subjects to which they might have never been exposed. Technology ensures that a college education does not have to be "place-based" anymore.

    An online education not only offers students affordability and accessibility but the chance to learn in an interactive environment where technology is the driving force behind innovative educational opportunities. The downturn in the economy and need for more options has caused an increase in the number of students choosing online classes. According to U.S. News and World Report in April, 2009, "more than 4 million enrolled in at least one online course last fall, up from fewer than 2 million in 2003." This is a significant increase in only five years.

    The public now has access to an affordable education offered by reputable, accredited universities, such as Colorado State University with their Global Campus program and Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. The standard cost for a three credit hour course at CSU-Global is $897 for students interested in pursuing a Bachelor's degree. The cost for a three credit hour course for a student pursuing a Master's degree is $1,197. Military students receive a discounted tuition for either program. Adult learners are able to take courses from the comfort of their own home without having to commute, pay student fees or accumulate other costs like parking. They will get credit for the knowledge they gain regardless of whether they are sitting in a traditional classroom setting or in front of a tablet computer. The level of quality in an online classroom is the same as a traditional classroom.

    It is important for those considering distance education to research the institution they are considering as accreditation is very important. Without accreditation, the courses may not count toward continuing education credits, job training, certain graduate programs or transfer to another institution. Some employers will not consider applicants that have an online degree unless it is from a reputable academic institution. In addition to bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, several institutions are now offering doctoral programs online with limited residency requirements. Illinois State University and Colorado State University are two examples of doctoral programs that give working professionals the opportunity to earn a doctorate.

    There are many advantages to being able to take online courses, such as not having to travel or live on campus. Distance learning offers the opportunity to take courses from anywhere as physical limitations are no longer an obstacle. Adults who work a full-time job need to have flexible schedules so they can accommodate family, work, and other obligations. Online courses enable them to have that flexibility. The internet gives them access to lectures from leading researchers and faculty members from top-tier institutions. Websites like Academic Earth are paving the way for this new initiative in teaching by posting video lectures from highly regarded professors at universities such as Yale, Stanford and Berkeley. Subjects like oceanography, engineering, and architecture can now be at everyone's fingertips.

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