A new study conducted by Babson finds that more than six million students are currently taking at least one online course.  That’s an increase of more than 500,o00 from the previous year, or a growth rate of 10%.  This news isn’t surprising: 2011 marks the ninth straight year of growth. It seems that not only is online learning here to stay, but it’s consistently inching out the growth of “traditional” face-to-face coursework.

The reputation of online education has also enjoyed an upswing. Sixty-seven percent of academic professionals rated online education courses as equal or superior to face-to-face instruction. That’s up from 57% back in 2003. As the general mindset shifts, more and more colleges and universities are offering online courses. In fact, 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term growth strategy.

So what do all these numbers mean for you? How do you know if the online education model is right for you? An Education News article listed a few good points to consider when you’re making the choice:

  1. Are you a highly-disciplined individual? Will you be able to make yourself sit down each day to do classwork, and can you manage distractions (kids, roommates, etc.) going on around you at home?
  2. Is it a good fit for your personal style of learning? You may find the pace of an online course to be too fast or too slow, and you no longer have a face to interact with or ask questions to.
  3. Are you looking for a social experience?  For many, their best memories are made in the college years. Can you adapt to and enjoy the more isolated environment of the online education system?

Tell us about your participation in online coursework.  Have your experiences been positive, negative or both?