Disruption is happening more and more with the continuing dominance of the Internet and what's going on in the online world. Online courses are on the edge of disrupting higher education in a number of ways. It will demonstrate that this is no longer the preserve of colleges and universities.

So why will your exam preparations soon happen from an online interface, rather than a college library?

Experience Over Education

The big problem with a lot of conventional education programs is that they are not sufficiently preparing people for the real world of work. There are so many organizations that are increasingly turning away from traditional degrees because they want candidates with real skills.

Online courses are changing in order to provide people with the skills and knowledge of the industry they want to operate in, which is why they are exploding in popularity. Over time, an increasing number of employers are going to see the value of online courses over traditional, more general, degrees.

The Cost

The cost of a university degree is continuing to rise every year, with the average student now owing $35,000. Since owning a college degree has become the 'done thing', these profit-making institutions have seen the chance to make a lot of money. It's why more and more students are leaving education with six-figure debts that they can never hope to pay.

To make it even worse, these debts can't be discharged through bankruptcy and they can be passed on to the next generation until they are paid.

The costs are only expected to rise and people are increasingly searching for an alternative. They still want to be qualified, but they don't want to be hit with the immense costs associated with education. And that's where online courses come in. They are far cheaper and they don't come with the costs associated with having to live on a college campus.

Re-Education and Convenience

As people increasingly see their previously stable career paths collapse, they are looking at the alternatives. Getting into another career requires some form of qualification. Unfortunately, those above college age find it incredibly difficult to go back into education, particularly if they already have families.

Online education courses are providing an ideal alternative for those in this situation. For a start, they can do it from the comfort of their own homes. It means that even those with children can afford to study and retrain.

Another benefit is that these courses can be taken on a part-time basis. Going to college is a full-time pursuit and it's impossible to work a normal job while training. For a lot of people, this is a major problem because they need a full-time job just to survive, and so that puts an end to their ambitions of starting another career.

Online courses require only a few hours every day to get the most out of them. It may take longer to actually gain a qualification, but the point is that this is a real option for people.

The Final Frontier--Prestige

The primary barrier to online education has come in the form of prestige. It's the idea that employers are not going to acknowledge the value of online courses when making decisions on whether to hire someone. This is changing because they are increasingly seeing the value that online courses can bring.

The prestige and snobbery is increasingly decreasing and online courses are beginning to climb on an equal footing with traditional degrees. Although there's still considerably snobbery involved, all trends point towards this changing in the next few years.

It will be the biggest step forward and it will confirm them as a viable alternative to a traditional college education.

Conclusion--What is the Future of Online Courses?

Predicting the future of online courses is easy. There's no doubt that they are going to become more popular and will be a real alternative to traditional college degrees in the next few years. But what will it mean for people who are taking online courses now?

The chances are it will mean that people with these courses will have to wait before they are fully regarded, but by choosing an open-minded company to apply to they will be considered on the same level as a conventional degree.

There's no reason not to consider them as a viable alternative right now. In your view, what do you think is the biggest advantage of taking an online college course today?

Published on: Apr 27, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.