Distance Education and the Future of Education

On the internet or distance education— the training and studying of learners not physically present in the traditional educational setting — is growing in recent times and provides perhaps the greatest chance — and challenge — in the history of education. The current problems in college funding, both in the U.S. and overseas, in addition to important technology developments and the demand for more college degrees across all areas of society, have placed distance education in the center of every college conversation. Students and parents, schools, government authorities and management bodies, and many other constituencies have an important interest in a number of critical issues including distance education.

Virtually every large school and many other universities already provide some type of online education and studying opportunity. Some, specifically online providers have been around for decades. Some colleges are experimenting with combined ventures to provide no cost web based programs, such as Harvard and MIT through their partnership edX. Closer To Home, U.Va. has declared its decision to offer no cost web based programs through Coursera, a for-profit company whose other education and learning partners include Cal Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech, Johns-Hopkins, Michigan, Princeton, Stanford and Penn, as well as several leading universities abroad. The commitment of resources both individually and collectively by these top-tier colleges underscores the integral role of distance learning in college.

Regardless of the many hurdles and difficulties, distance education is, and will continue to be, a fundamental element of education. It provides much greater access to college credit and will considerably increase the number of degrees finished while reducing the cost of those degrees. Learners must exercise warning, however, while colleges need to look at common requirements and government and management organizations need to play their part. It is our future to band together.

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