Nationwide, millions of students are choosing internet-based classes to further their education, allowing them to take advantage of technology and finish their college degree faster, easier, and often for less money.
However, as more students are demanding online classes, and degrees that they can obtain without being on campus, some of Florida's private colleges have said no.
Denise-Marie Ordway of The Orlando Sentinel writes that some college administrators like those at Rollins College in Winter Park and Florida Southern College in Lakeland worry they will be sacrificing high-quality, face-to-face instruction for the sake of convenience. But they also wonder what will happen if they choose not to keep up with the online trend. The competition is fierce because students are choosing to say no to the high cost of private universities.
David Richard, a dean at Rollins, said that the online option is great for learning information and then demonstrating that knowledge, but it does not teach the life skills employers want outside of a classroom.
"The thinking is that you can't develop critical thinking and problem solving without deep interaction with students and professors,"
This situation leaves liberal-arts schools facing a difficult question:
What will happen if more students start valuing class convenience and lower prices over an experience that involves living on campus and having contact with professors and classmates?
College administrators recognize that students want online learning. Most high schools in Florida require students to complete at least one online class before graduation. This leaves students and working professionals asking for online courses that allow them to study whenever and wherever they want.
Demand for online programs is growing nationwide. More than 6.7 million students in the U.S. took at least one online course in fall 2011 — an increase of 570,000 students over the year before, according to a survey released in 2013 by the Babson Survey Research Group in Massachusetts.
Many of Florida's public universities offer online degree programs. Schools like Florida's public University of Florida in Gainesville, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and Stetson University in DeLand .
Consultant Robert Lytle said that even though some of liberal-arts schools across the country have said no to the trend, many will likely end up offering online education to some extent.
"Every institution approaches online with a unique lens that attempts to balance their mission and the desires and needs of their constituents, That said, online education is here to stay â¦ to pretend that it is a fad is to imperil an institution."
The officials at Rollins are looking into online options for graduate students and those who are enrolled in evening school. This allows these students to complete some of the work online, but also complete in-class discussions and group studies. The plan is to expand these options in spring of 2014.
At Florida Southern, undergraduate students have the online course option during the summer. They have no plans to expand at this time.
Provost Kyle Fedler says:
"I think there's a place for online delivery, but we also feel that it works best for certain groups of students. He said younger students who do not have much professional work experience benefit greatly from face-to-face activities such as doing research with a professor and presenting a paper to a large group of people. Those are the things you're just not going to get with a fully online degree,".