The internet was a truly revolutionary invention that brought people from all over the world together, allowing for a faster and greater exchange of ideas and knowledge than ever before. It is only natural, then, that the idea of the online university would come into play.
The online college course is nothing new, with programs being offered by University of Phoenix, Northern Arizona University, and even the University of California, Santa Barbara. However, few of them actually offer an online degree. Online classes are a useful fix for when one has time constraints and is unable to attend college long term. With our advancing technology and the prevalence of online certification courses such as ITT Tech, is it possible to offer an entire liberal arts degree program online?
The strongest reason for advocating an online program for University of California schools is economic. But are online classes really worth the cost? It looks like it is, but by how much?
According to online resources provided by the University of California, the annual tuition rate for an on-site education is $13,500 dollars. Assuming four classes a quarter for three quarters and that’s about $1100 per class.
By contrast, online courses without a degree are offered at $1400 per class. At Arizona State University the estimated tuition cost for an out-of-state student for one two-semester year is $6,000, or $24,000 over four two-semester years. Their online classes range from $450-633 per credit hour. You need 120 credit hours to graduate at ASU, which brings us to a minimum of $54,000 for an online college degree.
As it stands, a full online degree course would be more expensive then regular classes without the addition of room and board fees. If such measures were adapted for the University of California, university officials could argue that increased tuition fees for online classes are justified for several reasons. They may cite the newness of the program, as well as the necessity of standardizing the price for in-state and out-of-state residents who no longer would need to move across the country.
Online colleges are perceived as being useful for their ease of access and cost factor. Money is a huge concern and many people simply lack the time, money, or both to attend college full time.
However, economic concerns regarding an “affordable university experience” point to a bigger problem within the system. If the University of California wants to give students an economic boost, then it starts by making onsite college cheaper and more accessible. Nevertheless, online classes skirt the issue and deprive students of the most fundamental part of the college experience: social interaction.
The main advantage of a traditional university education is the social experience. The university forces students to go outside of their comfort zones and interact with other human beings. At a campus, students can find friends and broaden their horizons (or gain networks if they come to college with more of a mercenary mindset). Because college is a microcosm of society at large, it is the place to meet and interact with other people in order to acclimate to the adult world.
That’s not to say that online interaction isn’t genuine. However, it lacks the organic and humanistic approach of dealing with other people in the flesh. Dealing with living people is instantaneous and easily accessible in a way that online will never be, as it allows one to communicate and convey the subtleties of human interaction through their language, whether verbal or bodily. This is the kind of human experience you cannot find online, and which is essential to communication on all levels.
Online classes are helpful in that they allow technology to bridge the gap over long distances. However, the mechanical and decentralized nature of the online degree detaches people from each other and reinforces the idea that it’s okay to not leave your bubble.