For all of its growth, popularity, and improvement over the past decade, a few challenges persist for online courses in higher education.

online-education-hurdlesOnline learning saw massive growth in the early and mid-2000s turn into steady growth over the past couple years. There are now more than 7 million American college students who take at least one web-based class, according to numbers from the Babson Survey Research Group.

It’s not all good news for online learning advocates though.

The rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) since 2012 hasn’t done much for the perception of online education, as rock-bottom retention rates in MOOCs have shined a light on the potential challenges of expanding online learning to such a degree.

The reputation of for-profit colleges have also hurt public perception of online education. High dropout rates and students saddled with debt at popular for-profit institutions have cast a negative light on these schools and their massive online programs.

A subcommittee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently urged the institution to use caution in its approach to online classes, charging that web-based courses had “incomparable value” to traditional face-to-face classes.

There remain three key hurdles to the continued growth of online college courses, however, and the way educators and campus technologists address these issues could determine the future of web-based education as a foundational part of the college experience.

(Next page: Online education’s hurdles)


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