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As Online Colleges Gain Support, Their Future Becomes Clear 

A recent study shows that online education has gained greater support and acceptance since the pandemic.

 The survey, conducted by Champlain College online, shows that;

  • 90% of adults find online education effective in equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their careers
  • 80% of adults would consider an online program if enrolling in undergraduate or graduate education
  • 77% of adults think online higher education is the same or better at meeting the needs of students ages 23+ when compared to on-campus higher education (a 20% increase from 2017)
  • 64% of adults believe the value of an online degree for the tuition dollar is equal to or more than the value of an on-campus degree (a 20% increase from 2017)
  • 53% of adults think online higher education is the same or better at meeting the needs of students ages 17-22 when compared to on-campus higher education (a 33% increase from 2017)


“The statistics tell a convincing story — online degree programs are viewed as a strategic choice rather than a compromise for those seeking a dynamic and accommodating educational journey,” the study’s authors write.

This is great news. Online classes can make college more accessible to new populations than traditional colleges have been. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently noted, for example, that conventional colleges are often out of reach for rural Black populations.  

But while this is good news, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

No Two “Online Colleges” Are The Same 

Just as online college can’t just be a “cheaper version” of conventional colleges if it’s going to succeed, “online education” isn’t a one-size-fits-all box for any new population. Different populations have different needs and respond better to different approaches to online education. 

There’s a big difference, for example, between the needs of students fresh out of high school looking for a degree in a few years and working adults who are looking for a certification that can change their career in eight months. As colleges invest in the infrastructure needed for online classes, they also need to know who they’re designing these classes for.

Among the many questions they need to consider:

  • Will the classes lead to a degree, or a certification?
  • Are the classes designed to be taken as a cohort, or by individual students on their own time?
  • How are learning objectives measured and evaluated?
  • What kind of careers and learning objectives do the classes support?
  • What kind of time commitment will the classes require?

A Free Online Community College Designed For California’s Working Adults

Calbright is not just a leader in online education, having pioneered the necessary connection between high tech and high touch approaches to help a diverse array of students succeed in online classes. Calbright is also hyper-focused on a very specific target population of students: the over six million Californians who are working adults, often parents, with a high school diploma or equivalent but no college degree, who are looking to quickly improve or transition their careers. 

While Calbright turns no one away – every adult Californians with a high school diploma or equivalent who applies is accepted – our systems are specifically designed to support those so-called “stranded workers.” That means our approach is designed to help get them in the door, set them up for success, and help them achieve their goals.

That means that Calbright is distinct from many other kinds of “online colleges” that might work very successfully for other populations. For example:

  • Calbright is free;
  • Calbright accepts every Californian who applies;
  • Calbright doesn’t offer traditional degrees – instead it trains students for industry valued skills that are tied to upwardly mobile positions in technical fields;
  • Calbright is flexibly paced, so that students can take classes on whatever schedule fits their lives;
  • Calbright uses a Competency-Based Education model that allows students to move quickly through skills they’ve already mastered, and to take extra time whenever they need it, without penalty;
  • Calbright is in constant connection with industry trends to make sure that our courses can be updated in real time to keep students are prepared as possible for the job market;
  • We remove administrative hurdles and red tape that are common in educational bureaucracies, so that classes are intellectually rigorous but logistically easy.

Put this and other distinctions together, and Calbright is offering a college experience that is unlike anything else out there. It leads in best practices while also being uniquely tailored to a specific population. 

This is Calright’s present, and the future of online education. As more and more colleges go online, they’re going to have to make more and more decisions about which students they’re serving, and how.

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