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The History of Online College and Future of Online Learning

The History of Online College and Future of Remote Learning

Online learning has become a cornerstone of higher education. While the presence and availability of online learning formats have greatly proliferated over the past several years, distance learning has existed for decades.

The History of Online Learning

Online learning dates back to the 1960s when the University of Illinois offered a remote learning experience to students through an interconnected network of computer terminals. Naturally, the creation of the Internet and, soon, the availability of home computers in the 1980s, brought on new possibilities in online learning.

The advancement and accessibility of technology allowed institutions of higher education to offer fully online bachelor’s and master’s degrees, evolving into the online programs we are familiar with today.

With the continued advancement of digital collaboration tools and technologies over the past few decades, online learning has become more ubiquitous and more popular among students who are looking for flexibility in their higher education experience. Historically, online learning has been a preferred learning format for adult learners and working professionals with busy schedules for exactly this reason.

While remote learning has made it possible for colleges and universities to extend the reach of their academic programs to diverse student audiences, online degrees frequently suffered from the stereotype that they were “lesser” than traditional degrees. Some people were skeptical about the quality of academics and the credibility of the degrees. That reputation has improved vastly, especially in the past decade. The accessibility of video conferencing software, real-time collaboration methods, and more user-friendly learning management platforms paved the way for robust online learning options of the same caliber as traditional classroom learning.

Today, online degrees earned from accredited institutions are well-respected by employers, and 83% of business leaders perceive online degrees earned from “well-known” institutions to have the same value as on-campus degrees. However, not all online degree programs are created equal. It is essential to consider a school’s track record of providing online learning experiences that result in graduates achieving their academic and career goals.

The Future of Online Learning

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, we have witnessed just how instrumental online learning is in making education accessible under difficult circumstances. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a massive disruption on college campuses all around the world, traditional in-classroom learning was no longer possible and the need for online-only instruction became evident.

At the time, online learning of this scale was not only a first for some students and institutions but also a novel concept to many people in general. It was time to reimagine what higher education would look like through the lens of digital delivery and online collaboration.

The transition wasn’t easy for many institutions; faculty members and students had to adjust their approach to instruction and learning. Universities quickly had to find learning management platforms that would support their educational needs. Instructors struggled to find suitable teaching approaches to effectively engage students remotely.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology. However, as many institutions successfully pivoted to online-only instruction in 2020, students and instructors alike embraced remote learning. The advantages of online learning became clearer; perhaps most notably, how it increases the accessibility of college education. No longer burdened with geographical constraints, students of all backgrounds, and from around the world, had an opportunity to attend the school of their choosing. Fifty-two percent of students indicated that if the program they wanted to enroll in was not available online at their school of choice, they would find it online at a different university. Similarly, faculty members were freed of commuting times and granted more flexibility in their working routines for how they approached instruction.

With growing public awareness of the advantages of online learning, many institutions will likely expand their online program offerings moving forward. Thirty-three percent of post-secondary school administrators indicate they will continue to offer both remote and online course options even after their campuses have reopened and normal operations resumed.

The Harvard Business Review reports that the digital transformation of higher education is long overdue for many colleges and universities. This is illustrated by the many schools that incorporated online courses (and events) only because the pandemic had forced them to accommodate remote learning experiences. These trends and observations make it apparent that online and hybrid learning formats will lead the way for the future of higher education.

Today, more than six million students take online classes as part of their higher education program, and almost half of these students are enrolled in exclusively online degree programs.

Learn from Experts in Online Education

Online learning is undoubtedly the future. When searching for an online degree program, ensure you’re considering schools that have optimized their offerings for a remote environment. While many institutions only recently adopted online and hybrid formats because of the urgent circumstances of COVID-19, Champlain College Online (CCO) has been a leader in online education for nearly thirty years.

In 1993, in the days of dial-up Internet, Champlain introduced some of the first online degree programs in New England - and the only online programs in Vermont. Since then, CCO expanded its academic offerings and crafted 60+ multidisciplinary degree programs that meet the ever-changing needs of an evolving and increasingly complex job market.

From the start, Champlain has been dedicated to removing barriers to higher education for people of all backgrounds. A pioneer in online education, CCO built its student experience with accessibility and flexibility in mind: no set class times, 24/7 access to the online classroom and support, and a robust digital library available from anywhere you have access to the Internet.

With a constant focus on the career-minded student, CCO offers certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees built for tomorrow’s business needs. Taught by an expert faculty made up of subject matter experts, CCO’s interdisciplinary degree programs equip students with the in-demand skills necessary to compete in an evolving job market. Graduates of these 100% online degree programs become not only technical leaders in their field but professionals with the soft skills necessary to manage and lead teams.

Ready to find your ideal program out of CCO's catalog of 60+ certificates and degrees?


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Champlain College Online

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