Change is like water running over stones: give it enough time, and it will certainly sculpt and reform those stones into completely new objects. The Internet has swept the entire globe and has changed the way we think about social interaction, media, money, shopping... essentially, the way we think about life.
But most of all the Internet continues to change how we learn. It continues to reshape education just like water reshapes stones. Whereas once it was only possible to acquire niche knowledge by attending expensive universities lined with ivy, today more than 3 million people in the US alone get their education online. Today, millions and millions of people have access to free educational information that they can absorb at their own pace, on their own terms, and in ways that work best for them. The age of rote memorization, of learning “from the books”, is over. It's time to accept that the Internet has—and will continue—to change what education is.
Consider this: in 1971 the famous Open University (OU) in England opened its doors for enrollment. OU is especially well-known for their open admissions policy, which is blind to a prospective student's previous academic records. In other words, you aren't judged by your grades when considered for enrollment at OU—if you're hungry for knowledge, why should you be denied the opportunity to learn based on your academic history? You shouldn't, and now OU has approximately 250,000 students, effectively dwarfing all other colleges in the UK. And guess what? It offers most of its classes online.
67% of colleges today are unable to meet demand for online college courses, which says a lot about what students actually value when it comes to learning. More and more people are beginning to realize that learning at your own pace is the most effective way to retain information. Too often are students discouraged or crushed by institutional standards that force them to learn in ways that are uncomfortable and just not right for them. This is probably why the University of Phoenix, a for-profit online university, has over 500,000 students, making it the largest in the US.
Learning is a life-long endeavor and online education incarnates this age-old ideology quite flawlessly. Today nearly half of all online students are 26 years or older. But what about tomorrow?