Instructional methods, course requirements, and learning technologies can vary significantly from one online program to the next, but the vast bulk of them use a learning management system (LMS) to deliver lectures and materials, monitor student progress, assess comprehension, and accept student work. LMS providers design these platforms to accommodate a multitude of instructor needs and preferences.
Online education may seem relatively new, but years of research suggests it can be just as effective as traditional coursework, and often more so. According to a U.S. Department of Education analysis of more than 1,000 learning studies, online students tend to outperform classroom-based students across most disciplines and demographics. Another major review published the same year found that online students had the advantage 70 percent of the time, a gap authors projected would only widen as programs and technologies evolve.
All new learning innovations are met with some degree of scrutiny, but skepticism subsides as methods become more mainstream. Such is the case for online learning. Studies indicate employers who are familiar with online degrees tend to view them more favorably, and more employers are acquainted with them than ever before. The majority of colleges now offer online degrees, including most public, not-for-profit, and Ivy League universities. Online learning is also increasingly prevalent in the workplace as more companies invest in web-based employee training and development programs.
The concern that online students cheat more than traditional students is perhaps misplaced. When researchers at Marshall University conducted a study to measure the prevalence of cheating in online and classroom-based courses, they concluded, “Somewhat surprisingly, the results showed higher rates of academic dishonesty in live courses.” The authors suggest the social familiarity of students in a classroom setting may lessen their sense of moral obligation.