This article examines the growing popularity of earning degrees online and who is taking advantage of this opportunity.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):


Key Questions to Explore:

  • Why are online degree courses increasing in popularity?
  • Who is using this approach?
  • What does it say about these people?
  • How are these degrees being viewed?

New Terminology:

Distance degrees

Materials Needed:

No specific requirements

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Not long ago any degree earned online was viewed very cynically indeed. It used to be said that all you had to do was send your cheque and your degree would arrive in the mail. Times certainly have changed. Now, highly-regarded institutions offer candidates the opportunity to complete a rigorous, valid degree program by what is now referred to as distance education. This practice has allowed deserving individuals to complete studies that, prior to this, were beyond their ability simply because of distance. The result is that many new opportunities have opened up for those who have the drive and ability to overcome the demands which face someone far removed from established institutions – often someone trying to balance studies and a career.

This lesson will have students examine this practice of distance education and explore some of the challenges facing those who engage in it.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to assume the role of a company executive who is reviewing the curricula vitae of candidates who have applied for a position with the company.
  • Explain to the students that the choice has come down to two candidates – one having a degree as a full time student from an established university, the other a distance education degree – that is, it was completed essentially on-line.
  • Tell them to assume that all other criteria are approximately equal.
  • Ask them if this difference in the nature of the degree would influence their decision and get the reasons for their answers.
  • Having done this, provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Ask them if their attitude toward distance education has changed after reading the article. Get the reasons for their answers.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Explain what is meant by distance education.
  • Give examples of how the nature of online education has changed.
  • Offer an opinion as to how the completion of a distance education program reflects positively on most of those who engage in this activity.

Confirming Activity:

Ask the students:

  • to outline any situation that they could imagine which would involve them in a distance education program.
  • to indicate whether or not they believe that distance education is the likely future form of post secondary education.