By David Wells, editor at Surviving the OU

Why are younger Students Opting to Study with Online Establishments like the Open University?

Studying online is here to stay. The internet continues to grow and expand and with it ways of acquiring wisdom expand also. Whereas once upon a time the relationship between teacher and student was tangible, structured and very real, instead it is now increasingly connected through technology.

The advent of fast-paced internet and an advanced computing network has led to exciting new ways of soaking up our education and implementing it in different fields. Boosts in computer technology have also increased capitalistic market trends for employment. There are many views and opinions out there about the importance of face-to-face learning and how it is wholly different from online discussions and interviews. This is true. There is still a place for physical meet ups and tutorials to complement the online work, in my view.

However, in past few years, the trend of online education has become more popular in particular among younger students. The staple market of the brick and mortar establishments, snaring them after A levels and keeping hold for as long as possible. According to recent surveys carried out in one of our local universities, younger students are looking for local enrollments rather than enrollments in foreign countries. Whether this is to cut down on travel expense then who knows!

Online Degrees are not just for Mature Students

Now, many research companies have been created to help colleges and universities in developing an advanced online curriculum to keep up to speed with the crowd. Just a few years ago, a large percentage of online students were mature and responsible folks (most of them anyway), who were looking for advancement in careers by taking short online courses. Some would even take an online degree as one of their secondary priorities. According to a recent survey, the most surprising finding is the shift in the age group of online students. It has since been discovered that a large population of undergraduate students are mostly below the age of 24. The percentage of young enrollments went from twenty-five-percent in 2012 to thirty four percent in 2015.

Important factors influencing a steady growth in young online student enrollments include worldwide recessions, resulting in economic pressure, family responsibilities and increasing familiarity with internet use. The latter is a key factor.

As the younger internet-savvy generation continue to flourish it is only natural that they would take their education online with them.

When choosing an online program, another increasing factor for younger students is the overall cost. Almost half of these students self-support by doing part-time jobs so they can earn while they learn, so to speak. This of course is also true for more mature students who opt for the likes of the OU as it enables them to carry on working and supporting families while studying at the same time.

The Reputation of Institutions is Important

Another important influencer, after the cost, is the reputation of an institution. Many students now consider the online reputation of a supposed high quality institution. Students usually choose those programs where there is no constraint of set class discussions on online forums. A large percentage of online students are women, especially in underdeveloped regions. Lately, many high schools have initiated online education awareness by making one online course compulsory for every student in their fourth year of study. This has led to a worldwide awareness about the pros and cons of online education.

While online education has provided a solution to the many younger students suffering in poor economic conditions, it of course has downsides as well. Unlike mature learners taking online education, students are mostly deprived of the discipline they gain in an exposed university environment. Many young students tend to drop off from online programs due to lack of consistency. It can get lonely and isolated as well. They are unable to set a defined timetable for work and study. Another stereotype related to online education is that less brainy students take online courses because they are unable to cope with university’s or college’s competitive environment. This makes students insecure about their choice to enroll in online program. This is obviously not only reason but these issues need to mentioned.

Whenever I first through about writing a piece like this I got in touch with my friend Ryan who chose the Open University rather than his local university. Now aged 20, Ryan says it was an excellent decision to go with the OU. He started with a short course and once he was happy that the structure and style of the OU suited him, Ryan dived in to the old faithful AA100: The Arts Past and present.

“I wanted to go the business management route but one of my friends started off with AA100 and persuaded me to go with that,” said Ryan. “I’m glad I did because I loved it. The good thing about studying digitally was that I was able to still work part time at the Spar and save up for my next module. My friends went away from home to ‘normal’ unis but I preferred this option.”

That’s Part Three over with but remember to check back on the blog because Part four of this mini-series is coming very soon where we’ll be looking at the purpose and aim of distance education…..

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The Open University study guide is now available! Click on this image to find out more.

The Open University study guide is now available! Click on this image to find out more.