Online learning and degrees attracting more students

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See also “BYU-Pathway Worldwide provides cheaper, more accessible higher education Technology is vastly altering how people live, communicate, travel and receive and spread information. BYU-Pathway Worldwide vice president of administration J.D. Griffith said he believes society is slow to grasp digital education and participate more in online learning. “As society continues to move forward in this digital world, there is less of a need to physically go to a campus. You can stay home and work full time. You can have a part-time job, you don’t have to invest so much money in moving to campus. You can continue to have a somewhat normal life, enroll in online learning and change the traditional approach to education,” he said. BYU-Pathway Worldwide provides college-level online learning paired with weekly in-person gatherings to students all over the world. According to their website, BYU-Pathway Worldwide is used by more than 40,000 people in all 50 states and over 100 countries. Brittany Gilbert, a master’s student at St. John Fisher College, wrote her thesis on online learning. “Online learning has the potential to create educational opportunities for individuals who may have faced unsurpassable barriers prior to the expansion of online educational programs,” she said. Gilbert points out in her thesis that online learning provides flexibility, increases class options, lowers costs and provides self-regulated learning. BYU-Pathway Worldwide has more than 40 online programs and costs $73-$125 per credit. Gilbert found online learning often leads to students feeling disconnected and like they don’t belong. BYU-Pathway Worldwide tries to combat this by requiring students to meet weekly in face-to-face or virtual gatherings. At these gatherings, students “help each other and build and form relationships,” said BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Clark Gilbert. The program not only teaches students how to learn but also how to help each other, Gilbert said. The gatherings provide opportunities for students to explain and teach what they are learning.
This graphic displays some of the different groups who can benefit from BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s courses. (Lauren Lethbridge)
“It creates a community of learners that become a real support group and source of strength as they progress through the program,” Gilbert said. BYU-Pathway Worldwide classes are taught by BYU-Idaho professors. According to BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s website, online instructors typically work 10 hours a week, must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and be in good standing with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a study conducted by M. Moore and G. Kearsley, online learning was considered a good option because it “increased opportunities to access and collaborate with expert professionals in a global range.” Other schools are also expanding their online resources. Arizona State University has a well-developed and nationally-ranked online program with more than 200 online degree programs and six different start dates per year, according to their website. Of the 30,000 students enrolled, 87% who graduate get job offers within 90 days. BYU-Pathway Worldwide reports that 72% of students who finish five of the program’s courses receive immediate job improvement. A college degree is becoming increasingly essential in today’s workforce. On ASU Online’s website, Phil Regier, ASU dean for educational initiatives, said today’s college student has changed, with a large percentage of students being first-generation college students that have at least one dependent or work full- or part-time jobs. Griffith said he recognizes that BYU-Pathway Worldwide has become valuable to more than the 18-24 year olds who could not get into BYU or BYU-Idaho. The average age of students taking BYU-Pathway Worldwide courses is 37, according to Griffith. “Online learning has become a promising pathway, allowing for a greater scale where students can design a path that fits their lifestyle,” Regier said.
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