Education With No Walls
One of the most significant phenomena of higher education today is distance learning. Higher education is undergoing a shift (Johnson) as traditional in class models of education are increasingly replaced with online classes. Distance education was first intended to provide opportunities to those that traditional means of education did not reach. Technological advances in education and implementation of online courses have restructured the boundaries of the classroom creating universities without walls (Avilla). With vast internet resources and instant access to information, it is easy to see why some of today’s modern students are moving away from traditional education, enrolling in more online classes, and understanding the impact it has on their lives.
Traditional education has been a long established institution. Instructors and students would gather in a common place where face-to-face interaction was feasible. Michael Moore argued that learning could occur in alternative environments where individuals were separated from their instructors and could be made plausible with technology. The idea of distance education or “the open school” was put forth as a means to more adequately use resources and increase accessibility to higher education. Moore first defined this type of distance education as “an educational system in which the learner is autonomous, and separated from his teacher by space and time, so that communication is by print, electronic, or other non-human medium” (663). Utilization of technology in the educational institution is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1970’s technological advancements have made these ideas increasingly plausible and increasingly more mainstream.
The infusion of technology has paved the way for educational alternatives. Distance education can be delivered in a variety of forms ranging from online to hybrid approaches with both face-to-face and computer mediated interaction. Participation generally occurs at the time and convenience of the participants. This flexibility permits individuals to connect anytime around the clock from any location as long as they have internet access.
Growth of these types of classes has been extensive. According to the Sloan Consortium Report (2007), approximately twenty percent of all higher education students in the U.S. during fall of 2006 were enrolled in at least one online course. This figure had a ten percent increase over the previous year. It is further anticipated that student demand for online courses will increase. Based on growth trends, 83 percent of higher education institutions anticipate increased student enrollment in online courses over the next few years (Sloan Consortium Report). The convenience factor of online classes has extended the interest to more than just the initially intended non-traditional students. Demographics for the virtual student are very diverse and often include students who are also enrolled in traditional classes (Palloff & Pratt). Guernsey (1998) reported that of 609 students enrolled in a distance education courses, 500 were also enrolled in at least one traditional class on campus. The increased utilization of online classes is attributed to the benefits they provide. While the original intention of distance education was to increase accessibility of classes, other benefits surfaced. Decreased government resources and increased student enrollment have posed problems that online education helps with (Johnson). Increased enrollment has made space availability for classes on college campuses a challenge (El Mansour & Mupinga). Online classes do not require the traditional classroom and therefore, free space for alternative use. Distance education classes also aid with the budget, as it is an economically efficient means in delivering instruction to a greater number of students (Hugenberg & Hugenberg).
In the end, the web-based nature of online