Sunday, March 3, 2013

Online Learning: Everything Old Is New Again

The massive open online course, or MOOC, has been a hot topic over the past year. In fact, according to the New York Times, 2012 was the "Year of the MOOC." But while MOOCs offer an interesting new perspective on online learning, the emergence of this particular model of digital delivery shouldn't suggest that online learning is a new phenomenon. Quite the contrary.

Online learning has been widely used in higher education with great success for nearly two decades, both through fully online and blended courses. At my institution, the University of Central Florida, we began offering online courses in 1996. Since that time, online learning has become a significant element of our institutional strategy and culture. Today, more than one-third of UCF's credit hours are delivered through online learning, and we are experimenting with non-credit MOOCs, which we offer through the Canvas Network.

The reality is that -- at UCF and beyond -- online learning has become an increasing part of the higher education experience for years and has accumulated a convincing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness as a medium for teaching and learning. According to "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States," published by the Babson Survey Research Group in January 2013, more than 6.7 million students took at least one online course last year, a year-over-year increase of 570,000 students. Today, nearly one-third of all college students take at least one course online -- hardly reflective of a trend in its nascent stages.


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