Online schools continue to gain legitimacy

The advent of online classes has made the obstacle of receiving a high school diploma and college degree much more attainable. But how successful are online courses? Sure, they alleviate some of the problems that hinder many educational programs such as classroom size, student-to-teacher ratio and accessibility.

But how much do students learn when the basis of their studies comes from the privacy of their own homes? Enough to create entire universities for the sole function of providing online courses, apparently. Penn State University recently opened its World Campus, an online degree program in which the University offers more than 50 associates, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs online.

According to its Web site, PSU World Campus requires a high school diploma or general education degree and for the student to meet certain technical requirements, such as having a computer with an online connection. Undergraduate courses cost approximately $394 to $419 per credit hour if taken in a group format. Out-of-state students who attend the World Campus will pay a maximum of $12,750. A student planning on attending Penn State in State College, Pa. can expect to pay approximately $10,000 more as an out-of-state student. If basing a decision solely on cost, the World Campus is the way to go.

But how can students be kept honest if they take their tests online? There are a variety of resources on the Internet that anyone could use to assist them in the test-taking process. What happens when said student hits the “real world” and realizes that his or her job doesn’t consist of applying knowledge through a computer?

One of the bonuses to taking classes at a university is the face-to-face cohesion and intimacy students receive from a classroom environment. Plus, how will students interact and learn from classmates? Through webcams?

Getting out of bed and heading straight to the computer isn’t the standard “going away to college” atmosphere that most envision. Many do see online courses as the future of education. Many school districts, including Hillsborough County, will be offering high school classes through an online format that has been successful to date. The next step in this progression is, of course, finding a way to do all jobs and careers from the luxury of our own homes. Hermits rejoice.