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Online college, university courses gain credibility

Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 in Moneyville, Quality of Life | 0 comments

By Sheryl Smolkin

Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca 

If you haven’t attended college or university for many years, you may be surprised at the proliferation of courses available online. You can get an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, a college diploma or a professional designation all on your own time without ever stepping foot on campus.

Distance degrees have come a long way from the mid 90s when I got an LLM from University of Leicester. Fast internet connections and sophisticated software give students more one on one time with their instructors and peers while they complete their studies from the comfort of their homes.

OntarioLearn.com is a consortium of 22 Ontario colleges servicing the growing market for online education. Although it started with only four colleges and a few hundred students in 1995, it now offers 1,300 courses to over 67,000 people.

If a partner college develops an online course, they can offer it to the other colleges through OntarioLearn.com. Only one unique course is allowed for each subject. “It’s the best of both worlds for all those colleges because can take advantage of something someone else has developed,” says the consortium’s Director Al Brady.

Students typically apply to a local community college offering programs as varied as computer programming, early childhood education, human resources management and content mandated by various trades.  Once the student is admitted, he can register through the college in any OntarioLearn.com course offered as part of the curriculum.

Fees of approximately $250-$300 per course are paid to the school where the student is registered and that school also issues any certificate or diploma. Ontariolearn.com is a non-profit organization, but each time a college picks up one of its courses the consortium receives a fee to pay for its course development and other administration costs.

Brady says one thing in particular sets his organization apart from other similar, smaller online education collaborations like eCampus Alberta and Open University Australia. “Ontariolearn.com has a third party actually host the courses and provide support. That’s because college IT departments are generally 9-5 and this stuff happens 24/7.”

What do employers think of online education?

A recent survey of 500 Albertans by DeVry Institute of Technology reveals that online education from post-secondary institutions is gaining acceptance in the labour market. Seven out of 10 survey respondents believe there is value in these programs and almost one-half agreed that this form of study has increased in credibility over the last five years.

Brady is surprised these numbers are not even higher. “There used to be a thought that online education is no good, but there are many studies now telling us that’s not true at all.” In fact, he says faculty report they have more interaction with students in the online world than they ever did in the classroom.

So whether you are unemployed, underemployed or just want to beef up your credentials, chances are there is a flexible online program you can fit into your busy schedule. And many OntarioLearn.com courses offer monthly entrance, so if you miss the beginning of the traditional fall, winter or spring terms you don’t always have to wait until the beginning of the next semester to get started.

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