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Online Education: A Big Disruptor in Education?

Will Online Education Change Higher Ed Forever?

I wrestle with my son daily to keep him off screens. This morning as he was getting changed for day camp, he played a game on his DSi while pulling on his pants. At breakfast hurriedly eating toast, he also managed to simultaneously watch 10 minutes of an old Power Rangers show on the iMac using either Hulu or YouTube. After we drop off his sisters at their bus pick up, we have 30 minutes to kill before his drop off. He uses my iPhone to pass the time and he’s not playing educational math games unless I yell at him.

So I ask him, “Do you want to learn to make video games?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Who wouldn’t?!”

Who wouldn’t indeed?! His older sisters go to a creative artsy computer-y camp. I signed them up for Digital Photography and Film Making which they enjoyed last year. It turns out that they switched themselves into … Video Game Creation and Web Design.

“We can help you with your blog,” they giggle. “We know you need help!”

Actually, I could use technical assistance with my blog. It took me the better part of a weekend to figure out how to add a cache folder that my blog instructed me to create when it posted a big red warning sign and then started melting down when I failed to respond promptly. (Here’s how if you are using HyperCache.)

So when I was introduced to NetDegree I was intrigued by their Video Game program which somehow popped right up as if it were reading my mind. It’s not like I wouldn’t drive him to M.I.T. for a summer program, it’s just that it would be highly inconvenient to drive there both ways without a car pool. Learning online IS the next big thing. Twenty years ago, my brother got a Master’s Degree while working at Hughes Aircraft by simply showing up to a conference room where U.S.C. computer programming classes were piped in. This was old school and just one way communication but really, it’s just one way communication at most large lecture classes anyway. With rapid advances in video conferencing (hello new G4 iPhone!), remote is suddenly the new next door.

Even the venerable Harvard Business School wonders if this is the big Disruptor/Paradigm shift in education. “Institutions like Harvard Business School might be particularly vulnerable. Consider the different reasons or jobs for which people might “hire” business education. Some need help with a relatively specific business problem or question; others want to learn how to be a great general manager; many need a credential to obtain their next promotion; still others want help switching careers. And still more people “hire” business education for the brand and connections of a prestigious alumni network.” Harvard Magazine

I did a little digging into the NetDegree site. The study areas are pretty comprehensive for those who know what skills they are seeking to gain.

    • Arts and Design
    • Business
    • Criminal Justice and Law
    • Education
    • Engineering and Construction
    • General
    • Healthcare
    • Information Technology
    • Sciences

I thought that this is especially a good option for return-to-work moms who have decided to pursue a new career like nursing like my mom friend Vita, or as a therapist like my mom friend Sarah who is now getting a Master’s in Social Work by relocating her family for the summer to Western Massachusetts. The site also provided information on which schools have onsite programs as well as online.

As for my son, I think his future may lie in a Video Game Design Degree. He has, after all, declared this to be his future career when he was five. I wonder if he can spend a summer taking a class online instead of me schlepping to Cambridge. He’s only six so there’s plenty of time, but then again, I always have technical blog issues…


By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Amy Gregson

    The internet is certainly decentralizing more and more these days, so why not education? Game designers need to know computer science, math, physics, and more. My son has been wondering how he can go to college but stay in state. I’ll send him a link to NetDegree and see if he can find a good school online!

    • To Amy,
      I’m glad that the post was helpful for you! Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment! The internet is certainly changing the way we do things! I wonder when more colleges at, say Ivy Leagues, will offer an online option? It’s one way to keep up with the demand for a college education!

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