Surge in demand for online university courses

E-learning institutions dominate a list of the most searched for universities, according to new report from search engine Google.

The report shows that universities based around online stay-at-home study are proving more popular than traditional bricks and mortar institutions, with the number of searches for online universities superseding that of traditional universities from prospective students in 2013.

Globally renowned universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Stanford were out-ranked by the University of Phoenix in the US, an online-based institution with 112 campuses worldwide.

The UK’s Open University, which was established in 1969, was placed in third, behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which, in 2014, was named by education and research company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), as the top university in the world. Like the University of Phoenix, MIT is also well-known for its online courses.

Google’s report highlights that five of the top twenty most-searched for universities can be found in the UK, namely the Open University, the London School of Economics, University College London, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, ranking third, eighth, twelfth, thirteenth and sixteenth respectively.

Forty per cent of online searches made for British universities came from outside the UK, primarily from Asia-Pacific and Western European countries.

Although it does not reach the top twenty most searched universities on Google, according to US massive open online courses (MOOCs) provider, Coursera, the University of Edinburgh ranks in the top three for providing online Masters courses within the UK.

Professor Jeff Haywood, Vice Principal Knowledge Management and Chief Information Officer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Online courses are rising steadily in popularity worldwide, especially at Masters and advanced Continuing Professional Development levels, because most working adults cannot take time out of a career, or relocate their family to undertake residential education. Online education has become hugely more feasible and enjoyable as a result of recent technical developments including faster internet, and the greater use of mobile devices, for example.

“The University of Edinburgh has a strong digital education vision and strategy, and fully online courses are part of our view of how higher education will be in the twenty-first century. Residential education will of course remain, but alongside and woven through it will be online education. We now have over fifty Masters degrees fully online with more than two thousand five hundred students enrolled, and over twenty MOOCs either launched or ready to be launched with over one million enrolments to date.”

Google’s head of education industry, Harry Walker, suggested that university management teams across the world should keep this sort of data in mind when thinking about the future of their institution. He said: “The internet is playing an ever increasing role in the decision making. Students are online searching and consuming content in all forms when they are deciding whether or not to go to university and deciding which universities to apply for”.

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The Student Newspaper 2016