If it has been several years since individuals set foot in a classroom, they may not be very familiar with online education options. What they should be aware of is how popular Web-based baccalaureate and graduate programs have become.
In January, the Babson Survey Research Group released data that revealed that more than 6.7 million students took at least one online course in the fall 2011 term. While it is clear many people accept online education options, the results from recent Gallup polls show that Americans' opinions on learning over the Internet are quite complex.
Gallup conducted two polls — each with groups of more than 1,000 adults — in early October. Overall, the responses revealed how people think online education sizes up against traditional on-campus learning.
Based on the feedback, many individuals feel that online education options are on par with those offered in physical classrooms. For example, 39 percent of respondents said both traditional and Web-based programs provide a wide range of curricular options. A total of 33 percent of individuals thought online programs were better, while 23 percent believed they were worse.
Meanwhile, 39 percent of respondents also thought both formats provide rigorous grading and testing that can be trusted. Only 11 percent of individuals said online was better, while 45 percent believed online was worse. Overall, the findings show that quality is one aspect of Internet-based instruction a number of Americans still have their doubts about.
Another aspect of online education many Americans appear to question is how employers view graduates of Web-based degree programs. A total of 49 percent of respondents said online programs are worse at providing students with a degree employers will view in a positive light. Only 13 percent of individuals thought earning an online degree would be better and 33 percent thought both traditional and Internet-based programs could provide an adequate credential.
Despite the doubts of some Americans, a number of the country's top schools now offer online programs. In a 2010 article, CNN highlighted the results of a survey conducted by Excelsior College and polling firm Zogby International, which revealed how employers felt about online learning at the time. Overall, 83 percent of chief executive officers and small-business owners said an online degree was as credible as one earned through a traditional program.
As this survey was conducted several years ago, it is likely that employers have been more accepting of online degrees, as more schools have been offering them.
By Monique Smith
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