Online Education Degrees Now Dwarf Traditional Universities

Education degrees earned at online universities now dwarf those of traditional universities. USA Today analyzed recent Department of Education data and found that online education behemoth, the University of Phoenix, awarded more than twice as many education degrees as its closest traditional competitor, Arizona State University (5,976 vs. 2,075).

“We shouldn’t be surprised because the whole industry is moving in that direction,” said dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Robert Pianta. “The thing I would be interested in knowing is the degree to which they are simply pushing these things out in order to generate dollars or whether there’s some real innovation in there.”

While ASU still awards the most bachelor degrees, the other top 4 online universities, 3 of which are  for-profit, hand out far more advanced degrees, which are increasingly important for hiring and promotion. This, of course, says nothing about the quality of online degrees. Senator Tom Harkin’s office released a blistering report, noting that though only 10% of enrolled students are with online schools, they account for roughly 50% of student loan defaults.

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to compare the quality of offline to online degrees. Schools and unions are still in a heated debate over how to measure the quality of existing teachers, largely because we still don’t know how to measure learning. “Children are educated and learn over a period of time, but we have this notion that children are to make a year’s growth for every year they’re in school,” said Paul Heckman, UC Davis’ Associate Dean of Education, “This is … a problem, because children do not develop in nine-month chunks except during gestation.”

Still, the convenience factor for online education is a major appeal. Meredith Curley, dean of the University of Phoenix College of Education, said that the average age of the student is 33, and many come back after starting families. Do you think it makes a difference whether a teacher was trained online or at a traditional college?

[Image Credit: Flickr User CollegeDegrees360]