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Computers or Campuses?

It’s not surprising that more and more schools are offering degrees earned entirely online, or that more and more university students are enrolling in web-based courses. Considering the upward trend of online schooling, will physical colleges ever be rendered obsolete?

State of Education

Let’s take a look at the current state of online college enrollment versus physical enrollment.


Increase in the number of students choosing web-based courses over in-class courses between 1998 and 2008 (1)

Over the past few years, the increase in online enrollment (9.7%) has far surpassed the increase in college enrollment altogether (1.5%). (2)


Percentage of college students who have taken online courses (1)


The completion rate for online courses at U.S. community colleges (1)

Online enrollment as a part of all college enrollment has continued to increase over the past decade. (3)

Year Increase

2003 23%

2004 18.2%

2005 36.5%

2006 9.7%

2007 12.9%

2008 16.9%

2009 21.1%

2010 10.1%

2011 9.3%

Pros and Cons

Which is the better option for degree-seeking students?

Online courses (4)

  • Convenience for working students and students with families.
  • Provide opportunity to practice Internet communication skills.
  • Students can access course material and turn in assignments at any time of the day.
  • Online courses cut down costs for college living expenses and campus amenities.

Traditional courses (5)

  • Students new to college need the structure that face-to-face classes provide.
  • Direct contact with faculty and other students provides networking opportunities.
  • Generally, traditional degrees are more highly regarded by employers.
  • It’s often easier in traditional classes to partake in debates and class discussions that benefit in-depth learning.

The Virtual University: Looking Toward the Future

Will online education eventually beat out traditional universities?

It is estimated that by 2019, about half of all college courses will be based online. (6)

What can we expect 10 years from now? The possibilities are endless.

  • No textbooks. All material will be available in virtual form on university websites (7)
  • Web conferences that allow virtual face-to-face interaction with professors and other students
  • Different university calendars that provide students more flexibility with reading and assignments
  • Lower costs for students
  • University-issued laptops/devices for students
  • More personalized degree options



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