Online education has now become the talk of the town. With technology being rampant in various spheres of life, students flock towards the option of obtaining online education. The barriers to getting quality education seem to be diminishing as more and more universities including Ivy League institutions get on the band wagon to cope up with the rising demand. In fact, it is an expensive and the most flexible way of earning a degree from an accredited institution.
The question becomes: Are Universities going to become obsolete? Before addressing this concern, let’s elaborate further. Invariably, campuses across the world seem to be evolving due to rapid integration and adoption of various internet technologies from Wi-Fi enabled campuses to high-tech classrooms. LED screens with high speed internet access is becoming a standard.
On the other hand, online classroom differs greatly for the reason that the whole environment is ‘virtual’ essentially implying “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”. Online courses offered by various academic institutions have now been made part of the job description of instructors. Inevitably, fast growing cloud computing technologies additionally act as a catalyst in further shifting of the paradigm.
However, despite numerous benefits of online education, universities do much more than to simply provide education. These institutions are designed to give students a rich experience, and offer an environment conducive for personality development as well as grooming. Moreover, the human interaction, diversity, culture, physical activities, debates, socialization – all are important aspects of human development. In an online setting, several limitations exist to this effect and remains incapable of providing such an environment.
Steady increase in online courses taken by students has been observed over the last decade or so. To cater to rising demand for online courses, many organizations flocked to the internet to provide various online courses, for example, Coursera and Udacity are offering free online courses from top universities. Furthermore, top notch universities jumped on the band wagon and now offer online courses as well as degrees in some instances. Innovative initiatives such as EdX, a non-profit entity based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, governed by MIT and Harvard seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses by providing courses available to a virtually unlimited number of students around the world.
Undoubtedly, usage and adoption of online courses is growing at a fast rate due to vast benefits such as flexibility, ease of use, availability and scheduling, and reduction in travel costs. A well-managed University is like a ‘grinder’ machine sequentially churning our students into professionals while polishing their inner strengths and competencies giving them practical skills required to compete in the real world. These institutions also provide skilled and experienced human resource providing students the best of both worlds. Online education must also be utilized in aid to such learning environment to ensure amalgamation of additional skills and expertise that students need to better prepare students for the real world. Universities, nevertheless, provide an unmatchable environment as well as complete experience which online education may not be able to replace.
By Syed Raza
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