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Viewpoint: The Value of Education is Lost in Online Learning

Online Degrees: blessing or curse?

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Since the advent of the internet, it has been seen as both a tool for advancing technology and a hindrance to the average person’s day to day life. Similarly, higher education has been praised as a way to advance a person’s career and specialize in their desired field but has also been critiqued for its high costs, crippling debt left on graduates, and lack of access to all of America.

One tool praised to bring educational accessibility to broader audiences is online programs. Obviously not all programs are available to online education, but for those who work full time, online education seems to be a great option to help them further their education.

Over the past few years, online education has seen notable growth, but retention and completion rates have remained low. While there is not single answer for why this trend exists, we can see that more and more people are attempting online courses and degrees.

These programs might not be for everyone: online courses lack face-to-face interaction with peers and professors, and costs and time commitments can vary greatly from program to program. Some will say that the solitude of an online program is not desirable, while others may love the individualized structure and pacing of it. But overall, online education still cannot compare to traditional classroom environments.

Obviously these programs require the student to have access to a computer and reliable internet, leaving online education with a very narrow target audience. In addition to this, students might feel as though they don’t have the same grasp of content that they would in a traditional educational setting. Recent studies have also revealed that while online programs are assumed to have lower costs, the programs are often more expensive than its non-online counterpart.

Students also don’t get the same level of contact with instructors as far as questions, feedback, or comments on materials. Many online courses aren’t official degrees but rather singular courses to help individuals branch out their knowledge. While it is doubtful these online programs will ever completely replace face-to-face learning, there is potential for these individual courses to help people foster education, branch out their educational background, and familiarize themselves with previously unknown topics. If you’re thinking of pursuing online education, make sure to do your research before committing to  it.

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Nicole Masaki is a 2018 graduate ofCanisius College in Buffalo, New York. She is a triple major in English, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy. She will be a first year grad student at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Fransisco for their MA in Anthropology and Social Change program.

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