Gas prices driving distance education growth?

Are high gas prices driving faster adoption of distance education?

Distance education has already been growing rapidly over the last few years. But some are now seeing an even quicker uptake … and connecting that fact to higher gas prices. From a recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“It’s getting to the point of either gas or class,” says Robbie K. Melton, associate vice chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents, where this summer the number of students taking online courses spiked 29 percent, in part because of the high cost of buying gas to drive to campus.

Oil prices have doubled in just one year, and the price at the pump is expected to double again by 2010. With inflation like that, a 60 kilometre round trip that resulted in a daily gas bill of $10 a year ago is $20 today, and could be $40 in a few years. That’s going to drive a lot of behavior change – even among those who’d prefer in-person education.

“I would prefer to actually go to school and be there to do it,” says Ms. LaBadie, a single mother working toward a degree in medical administration. “But it’s hard enough paying tuition, much less the price of gas.”

Fortunately, this is happening at a time when the options and quality available for educators and corporations to provide e-learning have never been so good. Cheap, simple, and quick options such as Moodle are available and free to all, and there are other good open-source as well as proprietary solutions.

Increased use of distance education will likely drive increased investment as well, which is great for learners. Institutions usually don’t see it, but the majority of the costs associated with e-learning are not technology provisioning costs, they’re instructional resource development costs.

And that’s good news for educators as well.

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