When the internet was only gaining momentum a few decades ago, no one would have thought that what was slowly bringing the world together would one day become such an immense part of everyday life. Today, the internet is the go to medium for every man and woman to get their work done—be it shopping or even paying bills. Therefore, it was only inevitable that internet soon revolutionized the way education in the world. From teaching children in developing far reaching countries through webcams to offering various courses online, Online Learning has become the savior and sustenance of many. Its growth and reach are surprising enough, but even more shocking is the impact it has had on millions all over the world.

In simple words, Online Learning is the use of the internet and electronic media for the dissemination of education and literacy. Using various media over a plethora of types of connections, online learning ensures the fulfillment of the basic rule of education, that is, no person should be left behind.

Advantages Of Online Learning

-The use of various media to disseminate knowledge is what makes online learning engaging and proactive. The most common mediums used are computers, laptops, TV’s and even tablets and phones.

-Apart from that, lectures and courses are delivered using visually appealing methods like audio, visuals and video, which garners much attention and interest.

-Online learning is not bound in the confines of a classroom. One can pick up a gadget and work from anywhere. Similarly, through Online Learning, one can learn in and out of the classroom.

-There are no time constraints on Online Learning. Students are allowed to learn at their own pace, and in most cases, with the support of other peers who are taking the same course.

-Online Learning is economical—except in a few cases, the courses and study materials offered are free and students have unlimited access to many more.

According to a study conducted in the United States by the Online Learning Consortium, almost 3.5 million students had opted to take an online course in the recent past. Additionally, approximately twenty percent of higher education students in the United States prefer to take at least one online course in each academic session.

Growth In Online Education

Earlier, institutions were apprehensive about introducing online courses into their curriculum. There were various reasons for the treatment, the most primary being the lack of technology. In many cases, the faculty and teachers themselves are not interested; since they feel it will only increase their burden of work. Often, there is no demand among students in a particular course and how it is delivered. Thus, the growth of Online Education has been varied and tough is different scenarios. However, in the study by the Online Education Consortium, several key findings were illuminated, with the primary being:

-The maximum participation and growth in the field of online education has been shown by Two year Associate institute, which accounted for almost half of the students enrolled in online courses.

-On the other hand, institutions that gave away four year Bachelor’s degrees were more apprehensive about online learning and displayed the slowest growth. Some of them even thought that this phase of metamorphosis from real time to online learning was the doom of education and was changing it for the worse. Other concerns lay in affordability, technology and availability of resources.

The Present Scenario And Future Prospects In Online Learning

Today, with the advent of online universities, courses, and web portals, online education is viewed not only as efficient but necessary. For an in depth knowledge of every field is required to succeed, students look at online learning as their go to source for affordable and self-paced education. The study mentioned above stated that as many as eighty three percent of higher education institutions that were actively engaged in online education expected their enrollment intake to increase by the year. Additionally, more than half of teachers and academic experts believed that online education will grow further in the coming years.

However, a study in January 2014 by the Babson Survey Research Group said that people in current scenario had a generally unfavorable opinion of the Massive Open Online Courses in Online education, and that enrollments had dropped from 77 percent in 2012 to 74 in 2013. The major concerns lay in the commitment level offered by the students, which thus affected the ability of these open online courses to function as a major learning medium.

Where Can You Find Online Courses Now?

There are two ways to gain education online through courses and subjects:

-University specific websites: These are courses that are affiliated to a certain university and are most probably offered on the university website itself. Many students opt or university specific courses since they might earn them college credits and enhance their profile to help in the admission process.

-Online Portals: One of the most famous media for online learning these days are online portals like Coursera and Udacity, which offer courses from various universities free of cost. Students can also earn a statement of accomplishment or a certificate upon successful completion.

Here Are A Few For Example

Stanford Online: Operated by Stanford University, one of the best in the world, this online portal is most students’ first choice when it comes to taking online courses. What is best is the website offers a plethora of courses from different streams and can be run on various platforms like iTunesU, Coursera and OpenEdX.

Oxford University: Offering over ninety courses ranging from a few weeks to longer, the online courses offered by Oxford University are some of the most sought out courses in the world. Classes are held weekly, and credit from the courses can even render a student eligible for an Oxford Award.

Cambridge University: No matter what manner or stream of education it is, the University of Cambridge stands at the top. Offering both subject specific and multi-disciplinary courses, University of Cambridge has something for everyone in literature to philosophy to even science. If you want to know what taking a course here will be like, just follow the link and try out one of the ‘taster’ courses to get the Cambridge experience.

Harvard’s Open Learning Initiative: One of the most prolific and rewarding Open learning course portals in today’s date, Harvard University’s open learning initiative offers over 600 online courses for students who are interested. Most of them are free, but others can be taken for credit by paying a small tuition fee.

The University of Northampton: Offering world class distance education programs, The University of Northampton offers online degrees from undergraduate to postgraduate level. Of the ten distance learning courses, seven are entirely online whereas three require some kind of campus presence. A small fee is charged for taking the courses.

Online Scholarship Programs For Students Taking Online Courses

Most portals offer online courses for free, but those who do charge may ask for only a small fee. However, if you encounter any trouble in paying for your course even after that, you can avail help from many scholarship programs, such as:

Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships:  A part of the commitment of Targeted at students from developing Commonwealth nations, this scholarship covers tuition fees for students pursuing online courses at Masters Level.  

Edinburgh Global Online Distance Learning:  Offering financial aid to students from over 20 countries, the Edinburgh Global Distance Learning Scholarship is offered only for students pursuing Masters. With over 5000 euros compensated from the tuition fee in the field of health and medicine and social sciences, the scholarship is one of the most sought out for students wanting to study from UK universities.

Global Campus-21 Academy Online Training Scholarship:  A part of the Global Campus 21 E-Academy, this scholarship furthers students by providing them financial aid in the fields of managing, professional expertise and leadership. There are many full scholarships available to students for select courses, but students will need to meet certain criteria to qualify.

University of the People Tuition Free Degrees: This non profit, tuition free and accredited online university is one of the students’ best options to pursue an online course from. Apart from their numerous free online courses, their scholarships page lists a plethora of funding options from some of the world’s best sponsors, such as HP, Western Union and so on.