As universities increased their use of the Internet to provide distance learning classes and degrees, students on campus have also received benefits that improve the university life, a new report on the growth of university online services says.
In just a year, the number of universities offering online diploma and degrees has doubled, says a report from Market Data Retrieval Dun & Bradstreet educational research company. But the study also shows that universities have spent more money on technology and computer added to the on-campus residence halls and classrooms.
In addition to taking Internet-based courses themselves, students on campus also gained online access to study help, professors, lecture notes, class registration, parking permits and tuition payment.
The researchers, who surveyed 4,000 academic institutions, found that 7 out of 10 universities offer some form of distance learning, including courses, lectures and online study groups. In the 1999-2000 academic year, 34 percent of universities offer two and four year degrees like nursing degree and mba degree with a computer, compared with 15 percent a year ago.
However, interest in online education is growing, with one computer software billionaire even offering to provide it free to all takers, researchers and other educators say it is too early to predict the nation of students perched in front of dorm or home computers, rather than class.
\"It would make no sense to bring people together in a physical setting and not have interpersonal interaction,\" says Dr. Stanley O. Ikenberry, president of the American Council on Education. \"That\'s the whole reason for having a campus in the first place.\"
But Ikenberry says that new technologies can improve scholarship in the campus. Students, who receive a professor\'s lecture notes, download reading assignments or even buy books over the Internet may indeed be free to spend more time with professors to discuss problems and analysis of research projects.
Although it is becoming common place for professors instructing students using the computer, the report concluded that only 4 percent of universities say that all students have a computer.
Distance learning\'s greatest impact may be those who never went to college. The schools face greater competition from non-profit organizations to create their own proposals on the Internet, higher education may one day be available for free.