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Oct 06, 2016 11:42 PM EDT

Online Higher Education Will Soon Replace Traditional Ones

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In the past, online college courses had a negative reputation. Thanks to cheap advertisements and its being synonymous to for-profit providers which gave people the impression that they were hawking cheap knock-offs of on-campus degrees. But that perception is changing as elite universities, like Harvard and Stanford, are taking notice of its potential.

Online courses, which was popularized by for-profit organizations like Phoenix University and Corinthian Colleges, was not successful because of quality concerns. Even when Columbia University started its online learning portal and invested $25 million on it, public perception did not change because people were not ready about it.

Fast forward to the present, all these have changed when MIT, Stanford, and other big name universities started offering some of their programs for free through the Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs in partnership with technology startups, such as edX and Coursera.

After that, Georgetown University, the University of South Carolina, and Berkeley followed suit and offered some of their graduate programs online. Then there was the Arizona State University striking a partnership with Starbucks allowing the coffee chain's eligible employees to complete their courses online while providing full tuition reimbursement.

Chip Paucek, co-founder and CEO of 2U, an educational technology company based in Landover, Md. said that a "sleeping giant is awakening online in the form of elite colleges" in reference to the bigwigs joining in the online education race. He also added that these universities realized that if they won't change with the times, somebody else will dominate the space; thus, they decided before another gets there first.

2U has partnered with Berkeley, Georgetown, the UNC, and several other universities developing online programs since 2008. The company's online programs has around 21,000 enrollees and tend to have a much better quality than what for-profits and MOOCs offer. More so, the tuition for the online degrees at U2 is the same as what these universities charge for their on-campus programs.

"We focused on the student experience, on the teaching, so the outcomes for graduates are excellent, which is where the for-profits failed," said Paucek and he was not exaggerating because their online nursing program for Georgetown has a 97 percent board passing rate. Furthermore, those who availed Berkeley's online programs through U2 reported that they were promoted after completing the program.

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