Learning a Lesson

Yvette Miller —  December 12, 2013 — Leave a comment

Chalkboard New Top-Level Domains (TLDs) promise to open up new business models from those thinking creatively. So perhaps the new TLDs will also lead to new educational models – especially ones that harness the growing interest in online coursework.

Higher education is an enormous business in the United States.  According to Fast Company, we spend approximately $400 billion annually on universities, a figure greater than the revenues of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter combined.

But with climbing student debt –  a recent Harvard University poll found 58 percent of college graduates have student debt and 57 percent say it’s a major problem – online degrees, certificates, and courses could be the answer for more affordable learning. As it stands, Forbes notes that there are more than two billion potential secondary students in the world, but only 70 percent can afford higher education.

Online education could also be the answer for increased global access to learning.

Enter MOOCs (“massive open online courses”), which represent a developing market bolstered by traditional universities banding together to experiment with online content. One popular MOOC company – Coursera – offers online classes and verified certificates through a partnership between Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) have their own partnership, edX, which offers certificates for courses at their universities.

The MOOC experiments are the most visible result of efforts to adjust traditional teaching in a way that works for the online medium. Providers also continue to look for reliable ways to measure the success of online education to better adjust for shortcomings. Some of the biggest proponents of MOOCs, for example, now doubt MOOCs’ viability due to low graduation rates.

The prestige of these degrees, courses, and certificates is also in flux. According to research, 56 percent of employers prefer a job applicant with a traditional degree, whereas 17 percent prefer the online degree. As with any innovation, doubt and failures are inevitable.

New TLD applicants, for their part, are betting on the future of online learning. Entrepreneurs applied for the following extensions, anticipating robust sales for websites attached to them:

.ACADEMY

.COLLEGE

.DEGREE

.EDUCATION

.INSTITUTE

Innovative educators and the companies they create could change the face of education using these extensions, solving financial and other the problems, and pushing the online learning movement forward.

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