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Students interested in exploring their own route to a postsecondary education can look to online colleges in the District of Columbia to help with this endeavor. Also, area schools offering online degrees in the District of Columbia can help bring more training to D.C. workers, who comprise some of the most education in the nation.

Online Colleges in the District of Columbia

Online education has reshaped learning as we know it, expanding students' options and their access to higher education. And it is growing.

According to a report sponsored by the non-profit Sloan Consortium (sloanconsortium.org) entitled "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States" (onlinelearningsurvey.com), nearly one-third of all college students -- or about 6.7 million total -- took at least one course online in the fall of 2011. As the nation's capital, Washington D.C. has participated in and helped shape this digital evolution, with both traditional and online schools in the District of Columbia continuing to add and fine-tune their web-based courses and degree programs.

As an independent district under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress, Washington D.C. is unique when it comes to the management of its higher education initiatives. Unlike independent states that maintain government departments created exclusively to monitor and regulate these activities within their borders, the District of Columbia is served by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (osse.dc.gov), which oversees programs at all levels of education, not just the collegiate level. Yet, even with comparatively limited resources, the OSSE and online schools in the District of Columbia participate in a variety of programs that support the expansion of online learning. This may help the region in preserving its status of having one of the most educated metropolitan areas in the country.

Trends in District of Columbia Online Schools

Washington D.C. and the OSSE have taken steps to participate in and better understand the growing online education trend. For instance, since 2006, Washington D.C. has participated in Project IDEAL (projectideal.org), a program designed by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research to improve online education for adult learners. According to its official website, Project IDEAL serves as a platform for participating states to pool resources and share information about online education, helping them make the most of this new approach to learning.

While the OSSE works at the government level to promote online learning opportunities, online colleges in the District of Columbia are taking their own steps in this direction and Georgetown University (georgetown.edu) is among them. In late 2012, Georgetown announced it was joining the prominent online education venture edX (edx.org), a web-based platform that provides large-scale online courses to a global audience at no charge. These courses, called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, allow self-paced learning through video lectures, tests, homework and discussion boards delivered entirely online.

The primary purpose of edX and other MOOCs is to study and harness the power of online learning, improving its effectiveness and scope over time. According to Georgetown President John DeGioia, the institution's participation in edX should help fulfill its mission to create and disseminate knowledge in "innovative and effective new ways."

Online College Degrees in the District of Columbia

The non-profit Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org) reports that as of the 2010 Census, Washington D.C. was the most educated metropolitan area in the nation in terms of educational attainment. According to the report, more than 54 percent of residents in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro had at least an associate degree. However, research from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (georgetown.edu) shows that the area must do better if it hopes to keep up with regional demand for educated workers.

According to the report, 71 percent of D.C.-area jobs will require applicants to have some postsecondary education by 2018, which is about 8 percentage points above the projected national average. In fact, if it were its own state, Washington D.C. would rank fourth nationally in terms of the percentage of its employers that will demand college-educated workers with a bachelor's degree by 2018. The CEW notes that these jobs will be dispersed across a number of industries, but especially within business, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Due to their contributions in terms of improved options and accessibility, online schools in Washington D.C. could be a way for area workers to help meet the demand for an educated workforce within several high-growth industries.

Online Colleges in the District of Columbia

Colleges offering online degrees in Washington D.C. include a diversity of institutions, both public and private. According to its official website, George Washington University (gwu.edu) offers online courses and programs designed to serve working professionals who are unable to attend campus-based courses, students who want to supplement their on-campus coursework, and students studying abroad. By offering a number of degrees, certificates and courses online, George Washington University says it is promoting flexibility and accessibility for its students while moving forward with changes in digital learning.

Georgetown University is another major school offering online degrees in Washington D.C. Perhaps one of Georgetown's best known programs is its online nursing degree program, which U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks among the best online degree programs in the country. Gallaudet University (gallaudet.edu), one of the most prominent U.S. institutions serving the deaf and hearing impaired, also offers a wide breadth of online degrees and professional development courses. Students who want to explore additional online degrees in the District of Columbia area can look to the bordering states of Maryland and Virginia or to large, private-sector institutions.

Sources:
Babson Survey Research Group, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2013
edX
Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, The District of Columbia, 2008
George Washington University Online Learning,
Georgetown University
Gallaudet University Online Learning Opportunities
Lumina Foundation
Project IDEAL
Sloan Consortium
U.S. News and World Report
Washington D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education

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