More and more students are turning to online degree programs to meet their need for flexibility in obtaining a higher education. A 2011 survey by the Sloan Consortium revealed that almost a third of all college students were taking at least one online course, and that online enrollment growth was far surpassing traditional college enrollment. In addition, many working students are discovering that online learning is often the only way they can fit higher learning into their busy schedules. Other nontraditional students, such as stay-at-home parents and military personnel, are also discovering the benefits of online education.
It's no secret that having a degree can open the door to a wider variety of career opportunities, and often higher pay. Not only that, but research by Georgetown University shows that the percentage of jobs that require postsecondary education will rise from 59% to 63% by 2018, meaning fewer employment opportunities will be available for high school dropouts and those who only hold a high school diploma. Forward-thinking students are recognizing that completing a degree program online can help them stay competitive in the job market while allowing them to continue working as they work toward their higher education goals.
Beyond this, there is perhaps no better time for students to trust the quality of online degree programs. Federal and state governments have been cracking down on bad actors in the industry who were offering worthless degrees at a premium price, and many of such schools have shut down operations completely in recent years. Accreditors are increasingly asking online colleges to demonstrate good student learning outcomes and job placement rates to remain accredited, making it necessary for both online and traditional schools to meet more stringent requirements to remain accredited and continue to offer state and federal financial aid. Students can easily verify that online schools meet essential quality standards by checking the U.S. Department of Education's database of accredited programs.
Prospective students who are hesitant about distance learning will be glad to know online learning technology has greatly improved in recent years. Students have more options than ever for online learning, including live streaming classes, asynchronous classes that allow students to attend class at any time of day or night, and even hybrid classes that blend classroom learning with online learning, allowing students to enjoy the benefits of each. Students in programs that require hands-on learning, such as those in health care, can take their didactic courses online and arrange to complete clinical and lab training on site.
Last but not least, online collaboration tools, video conferencing, virtual commons, and social networking tools are allowing students to connect on a deeper level with their classmates from across the U.S. and worldwide. Online writing centers and tutoring programs are helping students get the one-on-one assistance they need to succeed in their classes, and virtual office hours help them connect with their professors. Clearly, there's never been a better time to advance your education through online learning.