Online Degrees, Online Courses Grow in Popularity, Breadth

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

Earning a degree online has become much easier in the past few years, and the ease at which the public can access courses and degrees has far reaching benefits and consequences that many overlook. Now, using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a study was conducted to see what effect online degrees have had for the public.

Of the top ranked universities, nearly three-quarters offer online degrees, per the Center for Online Education. This includes famous universities such as Johns Hopkins and Harvard as well as other private and public universities. While the primary fields for these degrees are health and business, online degrees are becoming increasingly more common in other areas as well.

Daphne Koller, CEO of the online education platform Coursera, has been making headlines with statements saying online degrees are becoming increasingly feasible. Data suggests that the influx of online education may have already happened and more than a quarter of university students take at least one online course.

Half of the top 100 universities are increasing the degrees they offer online. For instance, in just two years North Carolina State University increased the courses it offered online by 34. 83 of the top 100 universities offer at least one online degree and the trend for increasing degrees available isn't slowing down.

Data also suggests that the largest colleges in terms of enrollment are precisely that big due to offering online degrees. 95,000 of Liberty University's 110,000 students, for example, are enrolled online. Liberal arts colleges appear to not be catching on as quickly. Only four of the top 100 liberal arts colleges offer online degrees.

Business has been considered the most popular online degree choice, but the study showed that this the trend is changing. In the largest and top universities, the discipline of education has the most courses offered. It leads the nearest competitor, health professions, by over 50 offered courses. Out of the 263 schools considered, over a quarter offer courses in education.

The top five disciplines of study offered in online courses, which lead the pack by a significant margin, are education, health professions, business management, engineering, and computer and information sciences. This may in part be due to these degrees being among the better-paying majors.

The study also considered which fields would be increasing in the online degree market in the future. There was a decrease in only two fields offered in online degree work, out of a total of 38, which were philosophy and religious studies. In 32 of the areas, there was an increased number of degrees offered.

The study found that there won't be a significant change in what degrees are offered online. The top five areas for growth and for courses offered are the same so there seems to be a trend in increasing what is already being offered.

Nine out of the top 20 schools that offer the most online degrees are private. While liberal arts colleges aren't following the trend of increasing online courses, the same can't be said for private institutions as a whole.

In a world where technology is making learning and earning a degree even easier, universities appear to be keeping pace and increasing the options available for online students. In total, out of the top 100 schools that offer online courses, there are 1,037 courses offered. With so many options available, there seems to be a clear trend that online learning will only continue to grow.

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