Online education. Distance learning. Internet courses. Virtual study. For some folks, those terms seem oxymoronic. They stand for everything that’s wrong with culture in general and education in particular. They read “online education” and think “quick and easy.”

Other folks read those words and dream new dreams, take new paths, develop new skills.

Academicians debate the merits and effectiveness of online education. They consider its money-making potential, its impact on students, its impact on an institution’s credibility and much more. The Chronicle of Higher Education follows the debate and is always a source for informed reflection on how online education impacts the learning process in its myriad ways.

In fact, online education is vast and varied. Some offerings are legitimate; others are bogus. For example, one e-mail circulates advertising that one can receive a doctorate in six or eight weeks.

But other programs are legitimate. Nowadays, pick almost any institution of higher learning, and chances are that it will offer some online classes, some leading to an online degree or certificate.

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the University of Memphis, the University of Maryland and the University of California-Los Angeles are just several universities among many taking to the Web to educate.

Running a simple search for “online education” at pulls up a plethora of relevant sites, including a primer on e-learning from U.S. News & World Report. It covers finances, quality and value of e-learning programs, as well as the technology one might need to take virtual classes.

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