For some time now, the world of higher education has been shifting and evolving. As the U.S. Ivy leagues demonstrate, secondary education was at one point heavily concerned with reputation and name recognition. While this certainly hasn’t changed completely, there has been a recent shift towards more open and accessible learning across the globe.
A college education has become more about each person obtaining the skills and information needed for a successful career than it is about attending the most prestigious school or graduating with the highest of honors. This trend, however, has occurred in many different steps and over a longer period of time. The first step toward “open” education was the broad acceptance of online learning and the online college classroom.
The Trajectory of Online Education
Online education has been through quite an evolution in the last decade or so. From the introduction of the first for-profit online degree program to some of today’s most highly regarded institutions, awarding online degrees alongside their traditional degrees, online education has gained significant steam in the last few years. In the beginning, the legitimacy of an online degree was questioned by students, employers, and educators alike. Many believed that a true college curriculum could not be successfully covered through an online medium. But as computer, mobile, and online technology grew and improved, the concept of a successful and thorough education through an online platform became far less farfetched.
Today, some of the world’s most celebrated institutions of higher education offer online degree options. Schools like Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, and many others now offer online course and degree options. As more and more celebrated universities support online degree programs, the acceptance of learning online has increased. Today, students can attend a university and obtain a degree by taking both traditional in-classroom courses and online classes. This hybrid approach has become extremely popular among many different institutions. Students and teachers alike appreciate the flexibility of an online college course, allowing individuals to “attend” class on their own schedules.
As our society grows ever more married to the web and computer technology, online degrees have shifted from something merely accepted to something almost celebrated in certain professions. Many employers recognize the advantages an online education and online degree program can give employees in today’s society.
Individuals who are comfortable in a digital environment, who can communicate comfortably and easily online, and who are quick to learn new technologies are highly valued in today’s economy. So, it’s no surprise that online education itself has responded to this interest in many ways. As the world of online education grows, expands, and flourishes, the world of open education has sprouted.
Open Education and Its Implications
Open education is a different ball game compared to online degree programs. While both are in-effect the same—students complete classes online to aid their education—the open ed classroom on the other hand is free online. This educational trend made real waves only after highly acclaimed universities throughout the globe accepted it. Schools like MIT and the Open University in the UK are prime examples of open learning. Classes that are actually taught in a classroom and on campus are uploaded online with curriculum, syllabi, readings, lectures, assignments, tests, and more. These online versions of “actual” classes are available to anyone who wishes to access them for free online.
The concept behind open learning is that everyone should have access to quality college education. With some of the most prestigious and pricy schools participating in the effort, open learning made many waves in the world of academia.
Today, other platforms like Khan Academy, OpenLearn LabSpace, and others are expanding open ed beyond the college classroom, using online learning technology to benefit students of all ages and levels. While open education is interesting in itself, what is really significant is the implications “open education” has for the world of higher academia. Open ed suggests that a college education should be available to every individual who seeks it. In many ways, this trend eliminates the need for entrance exams, standardized test scores, college application essays, and all those elements of “applying” to college. While the college application process and status elements of university learning will not likely disappear anytime soon, open education does challenge them.
So, is open learning, initiated by the very institutions that uphold high tuition rates and severe entrance policies, an attempt to revitalize and revolutionize the world of secondary academia? Or, is open learning the attempt of big-name universities to remain relevant in an increasingly online and all-accessible society? And finally, does it really matter? Online learning and open education are important and positive steps in the right direction for the world of academia in our global society today—appreciate them.
Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer for onlinecolleges.net. She offers advice for choosing the perfect online program for prospective students and parents and welcomes comments via email at email@example.com.