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Dec 15, 2008

Education Keeps Its Distance

Distance Learning Distance learning has become increasingly more popular with the introduction of new and affordable communications technologies.  In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that the number of students enrolled in distance education courses will grow to over 18 million in the next 5 years. The biggest factor affecting enrollment, NCES predicts, will be the greater likelihood of traditional college-age students (18-24-year-olds) to participate in distance learning programs, rather than traditional universities.

 

According to a recent article from George Washington University , a growing population of its graduate students no longer needs to set foot on University property to complete its GW education.  Over the past four years, to be sure, the number of new students who entered a graduate-level, distance-education program run by GW has nearly doubled , while the number of online courses has almost tripled .  Last year, 550 new graduate students entered 18 programs, and during the fall 2008 semester alone, 365 graduate students enrolled in an online program, according to the Office of Institutional Research .

 

WGU Schools that solely specialize in online education are also on the rise, and for good reason.  Take a look at Western Governors University , recently profiled by Time magazine.  Chartered in 1996 by the governors of nineteen western states, WGU now serves students in all 50 states and in several foreign countries, and employs faculty mentors in over 30 states.

 

According to Dr. Robert Mendenhall , president of WGU, over 75 percent of students are underserved in at least one of the following four categories: low-income, minority, rural, and/or first-generation college.  Tuition at WGU is under $6,000 for a twelve-month year - without state subsidies of any kind - and the average time to graduation is under three years.  Most importantly, students and employers have reported that WGU graduates are equipped with “all the necessary competencies” to excel in the workplace.

 

It’s no secret that the success of the online education industry is due to its compatibility with modern, oversaturated lifestyles and career needs – personalization at its best - but I’m willing to bet that this industry’s success is just beginning.

 

Eleutian A brief case in point: Ten Sleep , Wyoming (pop. 350) is home to a company called Eleutian Technology , which has been hiring people in small towns across northern Wyoming to teach English to Koreans of all ages using Skype , the free online calling and person-to-person video service.  According to a recent Associated Press article, Eleutian already has close to 300 teachers hooked up with more than 15,000 students in Korea. That’s amazing!

 

Just two years old, Eleutian is already one of Wyoming’s fastest-growing businesses, and CEO Kent Holiday says he’s just getting started.  However, in my humble opinion, it’s the entire online education industry that’s really just getting started!