The latest developments in the area of desktop computing and the Internet have facilitated asynchronous (instruction and learning not occurring at the same time) online courses as one viable delivery alternative.
In today's global economy and competitive job market a college degree is, without a doubt, the most important prerequisite for the success. In the past, many individuals could not attend institutions of higher education, since their schedules conflicted with traditional classroom hours. For many adults the challenge of balancing a family, a career and a personal life often leaves little time for pursuing an education. Today, the same people can acquire associate, baccalaureate and master degrees through a technology, based on distance delivery systems and offered by a number of colleges and universities. The distance education suits busy people, who wish to increase their knowledge and skills without giving up jobs, leaving home or losing an income.
The online adult ed educators work with students to build the skills, needed for the academic and career success, providing experiences of genuine learning. Time-efficient, flexible programs, course schedules and credit awards fit into busy adults' work schedules. Through online adult education students receive a relevant, career-oriented education, which prepares them for tomorrow. Adult students, who have family responsibilities, also increasingly enroll in online programs. The reason for that is that the online adult education enables them to get an additional qualification, without having to move to a new location and sacrificing a quality of life or a quality of education. The students' life and professional experiences are used to accelerate the classroom learning in the online adult education. Classrooms, libraries and textbooks can now all be accessed from a personal computer at home or at their place of work.
With only seventeen percent of the world's adults, able to obtain some forms of higher education, the distance education and online adult education are often enthusiastically embraced as a means to efficiently scale the education to fulfill the need. Unfortunately, there is a paradoxical problem, where students, who might benefit the most from the distance learning, may not have an access to the technologies and tools, necessary to fully participate in the knowledge society.
To ensure the distance education opportunities reach across economic borders, we need to compile, mobilize and coordinate international donor efforts. The government should give a support through transnational agencies, such as the United Nations, the Group of eight, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the British Know-How Fund. Private persons and programs, such as the United Way International, the Soros Foundation, C.S. Mott Foundation, Bill Gates and Steve Case should also be mobilized. University and foundation scholarships and a telecommunications industry investment in the infrastructure development should be increased.
With a long-term vision and social perspective, the financials for the global distance education may well fall into place. It will be certainly costly. However, as the former Harvard President Derek Bok advised: "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."