Continuing Education Alternatives: Is the Brick-and-Mortar University Obsolete?

With more than 4,700 institutions across the country granting two- and four-year degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the need for post-secondary education is in high demand. However, with the advent of the Internet, the need for the traditional brick-and-mortar institution to earn a degree is being questioned more and more. Whether it’s online continuing education, crowd-sourcing education or other forms of e-learning, brick-and-mortar colleges might not be part of the future of education.

Forces Driving Higher Education Beyond Brick-and-Mortar

Due to the combination of technology increasing content sharing and the ease of movement of information, the ability for more people to learn skills has changed forever. Whether it’s the ability to work remotely, an inability to obtain transportation or an economic necessity for lower-cost learning, online learning has captured increased student demand. Specifically, there are certain segments of the society to whom the trend is attributable. While each individual’s circumstances is different, they are often constrained for time and/or economic resources due to one or more of the following:

  • Working a full-time job
  • Having to care for a child or elderly loved one
  • Not having a partner to care for a minor child
  • Putting off college for at least 12 months immediately after high school

Colleges May be Organically Going Digital

While some students have to travel across state or across country to have a hands-on college experience with cutting-edge scientific tools or engineering technology, more and more students might not need to be on campus because of increasing forms of online instruction and social interaction.

Students who transition from brick-and-mortar institutions or skip the traditional method altogether may benefit from advantages the so called e-learning revolution provides. For example, lectures and notes (or transcriptions) of each class can be made available for students. Whether a student attended the class and wants to re-watch the class presentation, or wants to focus on the lecture and not take notes, e-learning provides students the ability to learn at their own pace. Similarly, students and their classmates (those studying within the same program, but not the same classes even) may be permitted to collaborate or simply exchange ideas to get a virtual college experience through digital forums.

Benefits of Online Education for Semester Abroad Students

For students studying abroad, distance education can help students fulfill credit requirements toward their degree if the cooperating university doesn’t offer an appropriate course on campus.

Beyond the University for Personal and Professional Development

Other forms of online learning for entrepreneurs or employees looking to keep their certification can be accomplished through online Continuing Education credits. Newer forms of online education include manufacturers using YouTube videos (with proper licensing for commercial use) for new product demonstrations and online learning modules through crowd-sourcing to learn coding. These are just two examples to learn beyond the traditional online university.

Whether an individual is pursuing a two- or four-year degree or they are simply looking to brush up and improve their skills, the future of the online university and learning points to more and more forms of digital adoption.