Online classes and degree programs have increased in size and popularity and are becoming more common as public universities continue to add online courses onto their course catalog. Their efforts to introduce more online courses have paid off. Many colleges that offer online courses have seen their online enrollments increased by a substantial amount. Illinois Virtual Campus is one such example. Online enrollments jumped 27% from spring 2009 to spring 2010. Due to increased demand, many chief academic officers now consider online education as critical to their long-term strategy, as reported in an article in Chicago Sun-Times.
Many universities consider online courses a great way to reach non-traditional students. As reported in the article, "What drives many of us in this field is serving the student who cannot come to campus," said Ray Schroeder, a faculty who has taught online courses at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. Students who are unable to make the trip to campus include those with disabilities, military students, students working full time and parents who are just unable to make it to class at a specific time and place. Being able to meet students' needs for flexible access and to reach particular students are the top two motivating factors for online instruction, discovered in a recent survey in The Chronicle.
According to the article, the stigma that online degrees are not worth as much as a traditional degree is fading as the demand for online courses continues to grow, spurred on in large part by well-known schools offering online programs. Online degrees, especially those offered by accredited universities, have also gained acceptance from employers and employer acceptance is now fairly common. Director of Washington County's Division of Human Resources, William Sonnik, said in The Herald-Mail that he "wouldn't be too concerned about the type of degree, as long as it's an accredited school..."
Recognized institutions with online degree programs carry more weight with employers than degrees awarded by lesser known schools. A study by Vault.com reported that 77 percent of hiring managers say that an online degree received through an established university is more acceptable than a degree earned through a less recognized or Internet-only institution. As more brick-and-mortar institutions begin to offer online programs, more faculty members are beginning to understand the effectiveness and see the value of online instruction. Based on findings by The Sloan Consortium, three quarters of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality is equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction.
Having online programs offered at accredited institutions such as the University of Minnesota means that more students can now receive an education and earn a degree; students who would otherwise find it extremely difficult to manage both school and job responsibilities. Offering online options either in terms of courses or degrees has really open the doors of education to a much larger group of the population.