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COLUMN: Why online education matters



As students at a traditional university, we are oftentimes blind to the situations or needs of others. As a result, we oftentimes leave behind policies or programs that do not directly correlate with our way of living and learning. Thus, certain programs are left to stagnate and rot, which is detrimental to the University as a whole.

According to U.S. News & World Report, IU ranks No. 72 in the nation for online ?bachelor degrees programs.

According to the same source, Penn State, a fellow Big Ten member, ranks No. 1 in the country. So, what is the difference between Penn State and IU when it comes to online education?

U.S. News ranked schools based off three categories — Faculty Credentials & Training, Student Services & Technology, and Student Engagement. Presently, IU’s program, dubbed IU Online, falls short in all three categories behind Penn State’s World Campus.

Now, it seems to me that there are no serious differences between IU and Penn State other than how the system is structured. Penn State utilizes a collaborative, functional method where all campuses operate under blanket requirements and standards. As a result, all 24 campuses move uniformly in line with centralized policy.

IU campuses are more independent from one another. With eight campuses across the state, there are different standards and requirements in place for programs, especially online education.

At IU Online, instead of earning a general “Indiana University” diploma, you earn a degree from, say, IU-Northwest or IU-Kokomo. This is not the case at Penn State.

By centralizing the academic standards and practices, Penn State has succeeded in stopping the plight of individualized standards which end up causing confusion and disdain for online programs.

I believe IU Online should operate under the same ?practices and standards.

It ought to be the goal of the University to expand online education. According to U.S. News, between 2009 and 2010, online education participation increased by more than 10 percent.

Online education is a growing market because it offers opportunities to those who may not be able to afford, may not have the time for, or may not be able to travel to take classes at a ?traditional university.

This means students who are disadvantaged, have families, have to care for relatives who may be ill or simply need longer than four years to complete a degree have an avenue to improve themselves as scholars without having to sacrifice ?another aspect of their life.

In other words, online education expands opportunities for millions of Americans who would want a degree, but cannot find a way under the “traditional” system to reach that goal.

Online education is an important part of the higher education model for the 21st century. It is a growing market that can help potentially millions of people, across state and international boundaries, earn an IU degree.

It is time that IU adequately invests in higher education by unifying standards, regulating practices and ensuring a high-quality education through an online forum. Hoosiers deserve ?better than 72nd place.

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