There are few that would argue with the fact that online education is here to stay. More than one hundred million students have taken online classes of one form or another, and over half of all colleges and universities now offer some online options. Add in the numerous for-profit online colleges out there, and it’s hard to ignore the rising tide of online education. But some people are still hesitant to call it ‘disruptive’, although most are beginning to agree that it fits that definition perfectly.
Disruptive technology is essentially anything that is introduced which radically changes the way that an industry operates. The iPod is a perfect example, since it completely disrupted the CD and the music industry in general. So is online education disruptive? The following points help show that it certainly can be considered as such.
- Cheaper – One of the big factors of what makes a technology a disruptive one is that it is cheaper to use than other options. While some tuition at certain for-profit schools may be as high as traditional colleges, most online offerings actually save a considerable amount of money. By reducing the cost of an education, online learning platforms are challenging traditional colleges to modify their operations.
- Easier to Use – Online learning also makes it easier to enroll in a college program than ever before and easier to complete an education. By simply improving the chances of being accepted into a program, these colleges have created a whole new world of opportunity that didn’t exist before. That means that more people are able to gain an education. It’s a big part of upsetting the current system.
- Better Convenience – The level of learning convenience is another key factor in the disruptive classification. Since it eliminates things like scheduling hassles, traveling, and more, online learning has drastically changed the public’s perceptions about what higher education consists of. It’s an option that fits better into a person’s busy life, and as such has disrupted modern perceptions of education.
- Wider Appeal – All of the above factors help to create this one. The wider appeal of online colleges means that more people are willing to use them than traditional campuses. Since they have a broader level of appeal, they’ve changed the entire paradigm. That’s a key factor in being considered ‘disruptive’ in this definition.
- Evolving – Unlike traditional colleges, which have remained almost unchanged over the last hundred years, online colleges are continuing to evolve. As open source options like edX, MITX, and Udacity are introduced, the balance is further upset and more people are beginning to realize what online education can offer.
- Integration – One of the easiest to spot signs that online education is disruptive lies in traditional colleges themselves. Simply put, the fact that more colleges than ever are actually integrating online classes into their course offerings means that it is indeed disrupting and changing the face of education.
- Expectation – Finally, all of the above points roll into this major one. Simply put, today people who are considering higher education are influenced by perceptions created through online education options. In other words, the various advantages that online programs provide are being considered when students are thinking about where to enroll. They’re beginning to expect more flexibility from traditional campuses. That’s the key to disruptive technology, and one that is occurring today.
As more people begin to understand what online education offers, the perceptions about what is possible through higher education and the expectations related to it begin to change. Just as the iPod revolutionized the music industry, you can expect online education to continue to change the world of higher learning.