After remaining essentially unchanged for centuries, the shape and structure of United States academia has been thoroughly upended over the past decade by a variety of different developments that cover the spectrum of recent national news from the financially daunting (our ongoing national struggles with student loan balances) to the faintly miraculous. The forward march of technology — cellular phones, cyber classrooms, e-texts, and all other implements of a modern scholastic landscape — has infiltrated the most far flung crevices of modern schools, and authorities believe these latest steps represent only the tip of the iceberg. Distant learning, whether this refers to streamed lectures for perennially overbooked courses or self sufficient programs that facilitate students getting a degree online absent any classroom participation whatsoever, appears set to become the scholastic vehicle of choice for a host of online Bachelors degree and online Masters degree candidates in the twenty first century and beyond.
Digital transmission of printed material appeals to more Americans than merely those getting a degree online, of course, but students have readily embraced the new medium. Although the advancement of electronic publishing had been simmering for quite a while, the past year’s seen the technological foundation develop to the point at which the administrators of even budget starved public colleges and universities recognize the need for cost effective alternatives to the budget busting high prices of traditional school bookstore stock. Some of the traditional centers of higher learning have entered into partnerships with Amazon and other web oriented marketplaces specializing in used tomes to supply sufficient numbers of the academic texts required by professorial reading lists, but the most exciting new programs license digitized passages of a variety of texts for unique packages assembled in conjunction with the faculty constructing online Bachelor’s degree courses.
“The new possibilities that online Bachelor’s degree programs have opened up are incredible,” said Marc Breaston, a Professor of Marketing at a web based university. “It’s just an exciting time for higher education — in a lot of ways, even more so for faculty than the students getting a degree online. I don’t think anyone really foresaw the impact that information technology was going to have on higher education. Now that the heavy lifting (so to speak) has been done on the engineering end to render computerized devices so much more powerful and easily affordable, the tech companies have been busily creating all of these different applications for the smallest niche audiences, and that includes faculty members. It’s weird enough to be conducting a seminar from my home office, but downloading presentation modules over my cell phone? It’s like something out of science fiction.”
As the internet oriented schools broaden the range of disciplines to be studied within online Associate’s degree and online Bachelor’s degree programs — the online Master’s degree also increasingly common — and traditional colleges and universities integrate their own web curriculum upon increasingly sophisticated platforms, the technical design enables faculty to introduce multimedia components within a digitized approach to teaching. “Every web instructor I’ve spoken with seems to have their own distinct plans and ideas about what to do next,” said Breaston. “Maybe the older professors were a little worried at first about making the transition, but, once they actually sat down at the computer and realized the new tools at their disposal, they seemed energized at the prospect of revamping their syllabus and reworking their lectures. Web learning doesn’t just mean more students have the chance at a diploma by getting a degree online. I truly believe the quality of education has expanded just as much.”