March 2014
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TD Magazine

Online Education Falls Short

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A new survey shows that online education is perceived as less valuable than traditional learning venues.

Online classes may be the new frontier of education, but research shows that they have a long way to go before reaching the same level of credibility as traditional courses.

In a recent Gallup survey, Americans give online education high scores for its affordability and wide range of course options. However, employers view classroom-based education as more rigorous and legitimate.

Gallup surveyed more than 1,000 adults about their views on both online and classroom-based education. A majority of respondents, 72 percent, believe that online education programs are the same or better at providing a variety of courses than traditional classroom programs. Also, 67 percent find that online education provides similar or better value for the money.


Americans seem doubtful of online education's ability to provide high-quality education, however. Only 34 percent of respondents rate Internet-based college programs as excellent or good, versus 68 percent for traditional four-year programs. Employers share in this uncertainty, causing both employees and job seekers to wonder whether online courses are as beneficial as classroom-based courses.

Despite this perception of lower quality, many professionals are turning to online learning to bolster their skills. According to Gallup, 50 percent of Americans believe that gaining the necessary skills to perform specific job functions is more important than earning a college degree. Currently, 5 percent of adults are taking an online course, including both professional development and college courses—suggesting that more people are using online education to further their careers.

If employers are to join students as they explore digital learning options, these programs must overcome their negative stigma by demonstrating high instructional standards and proving that online coursework, certifications, and degrees can be viable forms of education.

About the Author

Ashley Slade is the former production and editorial specialist for ATD.

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