From Ivy League to Internet U.
May 11, 1999
From Correspondent Garrick Utley
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Ellen Gutter comes home from work, changes her clothes, feeds her dog and then goes to her university class -- in her garage.
There in a small office she turns on her computer and clicks to the Web site of Jones International University, the first Internet-only university accredited in the United States.
The Colorado-based school has no campus and no football team, but it boasts an enrollment of 950 students. Gutter is studying for her master's degree in business communications.
"I'm a very busy professional. I have a lot of things in my life that I need to do. And this fits into my lifestyle," says Gutter, an employee with a health-care company.
It also fits into her budget. The two-year master's program costs $5,500 annually.
The price includes course material on videotape from leading educators like Professor Eli Noam, an authority in the development of distance learning on the Internet for university students.
Noam also teaches MBA students at Columbia University in New York, where tuition runs about $27,000 a year.
"It is just very, very expensive to have that personalized instruction, and so for many people a cheaper product is superior in the sense that they can afford it," Noam says.
Gutter's degree may not carry the same prestige as an MBA from an Ivy League school like Columbia. But as faculty from top universities bring their talent and standards to the Web, the quality of Internet education is bound to rise.
But if students can obtain an inexpensive, online education so easily, what will happen to the traditional college experience, where professors and students interact face to face?
Many say that life on campus is more than just classes, but a place for students to learn from each other in a close-knit community.
Still, top schools including Columbia, Harvard and Stanford are experimenting with online education.
Noam, for example, offers his MBA course online for students as far away as Switzerland.
"I think there are kind of whole new populations that could be served by elite universities in that way, and I think that will in fact happen," he says.
What the Internet offers right now is a university education that is both affordable and flexible.
"I had to take a business trip several weeks ago, and I was able to take my school with me," Gutter says. "I was able to keep up the work and participate in the discussions even though I was not physically at the location of a school."
Those who try it like training online
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