Online learning represents our most promising possibility for meeting the vast educational needs of our population and for bridging gaps in social equality and mobility. As a university faculty member teaching online for 15 years, I hear daily from students whose lives are transformed by the opportunities and accessibility of high-quality online programs. Each story is unique and wonderful, but they often share a common thread: “A degree was out of my reach until I found this online program.” 

Education for all

The access and opportunity provided by online education resonates deeply with our democratic values. When greater access, higher quality and lower student costs are available, lives are improved. Online programs fitting these criteria meet essential educational needs in our nation. We must invest our time, our broad public support and our public dollars in the future of online education within institutions that embody democratization of higher education.

Changing models

As the growth of the online learning marketplace outpaces our investment in improving quality, access and opportunity, online education has stratified; the cash cow approach has had less-than-stellar results. We cannot allow the initial steps forward to falter. Now is the time to remain steadfast in the priorities of high quality online learning toward ever-more democratic forms of adult education. This opens the door for all students, not only for learning, but for social mobility, self-improvement and better jobs.