Innovating Education: How Online Learning Helps Students Graduate 

Innovating Education: How Online Learning Helps Students Graduate 
Beth Dumbauld

Higher education is a struggle against time and money. Students throughout the country are trying their hardest to reach those all-important educational goals. The challenge is greatest for low-income students, first-generation students and adult learners. Overall, men have lower graduation rates than women. Whether or not you fall into one of these groups, you are probably feeling the strain of completing a rigorous degree program while maintaining financial stability. It simply isn’t easy for anyone.

Time for changing the cost of college

One of the biggest challenges for 21st-century students is the sheer cost of education. Even as America recovers from its recession, many private and public institutions have raised tuition significantly. The specter of student debt looms over most prospective college students: If earning a degree means going into debt, is education worth it?

Honestly, education is worth much, much more than money, but if you can’t afford it, that still doesn’t matter. The solution is obvious: Make education affordable to keep it accessible. Better yet, make it flexible, so working students can earn degrees that will put them on a track for success.

That’s the founding principle of a new crop of educational institutions like StraighterLine. While traditional universities are fighting to stay relevant and overcome the critics who say traditional degrees are outdated, together, we’re striving for new ways to serve students’ needs. Higher Education has become a breeding ground for disruption, innovation, and alternative options for students to pursue their degree on their own terms.

Changing perceptions and online learning

If online learning is the best solution, why isn’t everyone doing it? In fact, they are. 89 percent of four-year public schools offer online courses. Over half of college presidents believe that online courses offer the same value as in-person ones. And we’re only seeing those numbers increase over time, as more and more students and institutions put online learning to the test—and come out successful.

The US Chamber of Commerce listed StraighterLine as a Spotlight Innovation early on for “attacking the adverse cost spiral of higher education: It offers perhaps the most affordable for-credit online courses on the Internet.” StraighterLine has been lauded by a number of publications for lowering the cost of college and potentially shaking up the higher education industry through its a la carte model of course offerings.

The main goal of online education, though, is not to shake things up. The real objective is to make it possible for students to graduate successfully, no matter their situation or background. We believe that making quality education affordable, accessible, and flexible will raise graduation rates for all students. That’s a result worth fighting for.

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