University of the People, for instance, uses the open-source Moodle platform favored by many school technologists who have criticized high-priced learning management systems (LMS) such as Blackboard.

The online school, which isn’t yet accredited, doesn’t have audio or visual components to its curriculum, Reshef said, but student satisfaction remains high: More than 90 percent of University of the People students said in a recent survey that they would recommend the school to a friend or family member.

“There’s a strong pressure to lower cost of higher education, and this pressure will just get stronger and stronger as time goes on because people understand that [education] can be way cheaper than it is,” he said. “But the most important thing remains delivering results, and you can do that with [less expensive] technology.”

Today’s high unemployment and the rising cost of college shouldn’t discourage Americans from attending college right out of high school or returning to campus after many years in the workforce, said Dallas Stout, a faculty member at the University of the Rockies, a private for-profit institution operated by Bridgepoint Education, Inc., one of the largest for-profit education companies.

Avoiding higher education – the online or traditional versions – doesn’t make sense for students who can secure school loans, Stout said, since college degrees have proven to “increase one’s lifetime earning potential.”


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