Mastering Online Education

By William Brown and Philip Corkill

The number of online programs at postsecondary schools has exploded in the past few years, with enrollment reaching 2.35 million nationwide. Today, almost two-thirds of colleges and universities that offer face-to-face courses also are providing graduate courses online. Among schools offering face-to-face master’s degree programs, 44 percent also provide master’s degrees online.

This incredible growth also has touched university education departments. In the fall of 2003, 30 percent of public university education departments offered courses online, and 51 percent of private profit-based universities provided such courses, according to Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005, by the Sloan Consortium.

The numbers suggest that K-12 teachers and administrators have taken at least some course work online, whether through traditional or online universities. Many schools have teachers and administrators who secured entire master’s degrees online. But even though online classes are a more accepted way of taking classes and earning degrees, many school board members and administrators still have questions about them.

We are both faculty in the education leadership program at Capella University in Minneapolis. Capella, which only offers online courses, was accredited in 1997 and now has 16,000 students. We want to address questions and concerns about online education because we believe these courses can be extremely valuable to teachers and educators, offering them opportunities that they didn’t have before with traditional programs.

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