Online learning changing higher education

Online learning is nothing new. Even institutions for higher education have popped up, partially or fully online since the University of Phoenix launched its fully online baccalaureate and master's programs in 1989 on Compuserve.

During the pandemic, 98% of universities in the U.S. switched to remote learning. Since then, more students are continuing with online study, with 17.3 million students in the U.S. studying online in 2021 — either full-time or partially.

Research from Bay Atlantic University found that:

  • 85% of students agreed that online learning helped improve their critical thinking and problem solving
  • 60% of students agreed that online learning helped improve further soft skills
  • 63% of students committed to online learning because it aligned better with their lifestyle
  • 34% of students said online learning is their preferred way of learning

The fields with the most online learners for undergraduate degrees were business (26%), Computers and IT (15%), and Arts and Humanities (15%).

With that being said, experts at ProWritingAid have ranked the top universities in the U.S. for online study, using data from U.S. Bachelor Programmes Ranking Indicator. The ranking compared the following factors:

  • Engagement score: This measures student satisfaction and instructor responsiveness. The maximum possible value is 100
  • Faculty credentials and training score: This measures how well a school prepares qualified instructors to teach remotely. The maximum possible value is 100.
  • Services and technologies score: This measures how well a school prepares qualified instructors to teach remotely. The maximum possible value is 100.
  • Expert opinion score: Scored by experts. The maximum possible value is five.

The scores were then tallied up to reveal the top online universities in the U.S.

In first place, with a total score of 267.2 out of 305, is the Medical School of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina. The university scored highly for engagement, 88 out of 100, and received 100 out of 100 for faculty credentials and training. One-hundred percent of the class of 2022 also secured a residency position — with 16.6% pursuing internal medicine.

Coming in second, with a score of 263.5 out of 305, is the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida. Embry-Riddle also received the highest score for services and technology.

Third place was awarded to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, receiving 253.5 out of 305, scoring highly for engagement, 90 out of 100, and faculty credentials and training, 94 out of 100.

The list also includes Ohio State University, Columbus, with a score of 245.5 out of 305, North Carolina State University, with 242.4, and The University of Central Florida, with a score of 231.9.

The study was conducted by ProWritingAid, which offers world-class grammar and style checking combined with more in-depth reports to help users strengthen their writing.

The team at ProWritingAid has also compared the total number of online students per country by analyzing data from online course provider Coursera.

The U.S. leads the way, with 17.3 million online students, followed by India at 13.6 million.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on how people learn. With online learning replacing the traditional classroom, some students have seen great benefits, while others have felt less supported.

While some colleges have excelled in adapting to the changes, many others have a long way to go. Universities need to find a way to manage the changes that come with new and evolving technologies.

According to projections, by 2026, the e-learning market is set to expand twice the amount it was in 2019.

These changes, accelerated by environmental factors such as the COVID-19 outbreak, are forcing schools and universities to change how they do things as they integrate online learning processes into their educational systems.

While it is uncertain what the future of education will look like, it seems likely that digital technology will play an integral role as educational institutions continue to gravitate toward online learning.