The Value of Online Education

Transformation. Disruption. Innovation.

The speed of change during the past decade keeps building. Within higher education, we often feel the wave isn’t going to hit us. The truth is, we can’t escape change and staying ahead of change is far preferable than reacting to it. Just ask those at Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia, Borders, or others what disruption feels like if you simply react.

If it feels like change is happening at a faster rate, you aren’t alone. Just three years ago, 2013 marked the entry onto the second half of the chess board and a shift from incremental technological changes to one where advances will compound at a pace never before experienced. Amazingly, we haven’t yet experienced a technology revolution.

Exciting? Intimidating? Apocalyptic? That depends on our ability to prepare for and adapt to change.

In my role as Associate Vice President of Distance Education, I think deeply about what opportunities technology affords the university community, as well as the global community that our education, research, and service work impacts. To me, this is really exciting stuff. The potential to revolutionize how students navigate a life-long learning journey is the realization of a passion of mine—one instilled in me by my parents who always emphasized learning over grades.

About the time we entered the second half of the chess board, I made the first hire for the distance education team within the newly formed Office of Distance Education and eLearning. There were no definitions, processes, or coordination for the university’s online education efforts. The opportunities were so vast, it was difficult to know where to begin. Since then, we’ve been working hard to develop the necessary infrastructure and culture to proactively address the challenges and opportunities of online education.

The impact of a rapidly changing value structure of Millennials, as well as the time and financial restrictions of working professionals, are part of what is driving the changes we see in online education.

In the 1990s, we were in a different economic and value climate—there was a race to the grandest, most modern physical assets to differentiate the college experience. When the economy and generational values began to shift in the mid-to-late 2000s, the valued differentiator became affordability and transparency, which online education uniquely may address. And this makes sense as Millennials are entering the workforce in a different economic climate, with fewer job prospects, and a life-long experience of on-demand personalization and customization of content.

There’s no doubt in many areas of our lives, we’ve moved from the information age to the connection age, and the connection age is about engagement without borders and limitations. My 7-year-old simply turns on the high definition TV, queues up Netflix, and watches what he wants on his terms (well, within his parents’ limits). No waiting 7 days for the Hanna-Barbara Cartoon Express for a few hours early on Saturday morning. Here is where I believe online education can serve as a change agent at Ohio State.

Being open to change allows a fresh view about what a university portfolio of education options could look like.

In just a few years, we’ve grown the Ohio State Online portfolio to 16 online programs spanning doctorate, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees. Plus, we’re planning to see a rapid increase in alternative credentialing through certificates. We’ve strategically focused on the quality of an Ohio State Online education, which has paid dividends as we see our rankings rapidly rise with our programs being in the top 25, including a few in the top 10, and one in the top five.

In most aspects of our personal lives, technology has profoundly changed how we interact with the world, and Ohio State is advancing quickly on its own online education innovation path. I’m proud to watch how Ohio State is adapting, but it’s not surprising with its amazing history of innovation and change. I’m proud to have earned two advanced degrees from here, and I’m especially proud of the top-notch team members in ODEE who are incredibly passionate and dedicated to collaborating with our faculty partners in developing an amazing Ohio State education—online. We are humbled by the opportunity to increase affordability and access to students who may not otherwise be able to become alumni of Buckeye Nation.

Ohio State’s success is now, and has always been, squarely dependent upon harnessing the passion and innovative spirit of our faculty and other academic leaders. If you have a passion for delivering education opportunities in alternative formats and a desire to explore a potential global audience, please reach out to me.

Go Bucks!

Rob Griffiths

Dr. Robert Griffiths is the Associate Vice President of Distance Education for the Office of Distance Education and eLearning (ODEE) at The Ohio State University. He began working at Ohio State in 2007 and has been advancing the University's distance education initiative since 2013. Rob has been passionate about the affordances and possibilities of technology empowered learning opportunities since showing his family how to use the Apple llc. The journey for life-long learning is an undercurrent that drives much of his professional and personal interests, whether it is formal education, tutoring, or coaching tennis.