The Atlantic

The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail

Similar to e-commerce firms, online-degree programs are beginning to incorporate elements of an older-school, brick-and-mortar model.
Source: Steve Helber / AP

Updated on April 23, 2018

Online learning has come a long way since the turn of the millennium. It certainly hasn’t displaced traditional colleges, as its biggest proponents said it had the potential to, but it has gained widespread popularity: The number of students in the U.S. enrolled in at least one online course rose from 1.6 million in 2002 to more than 6 million in 2016.

As online learning extends its reach, though, it is starting to run into a major obstacle: There are undeniable advantages, as traditional colleges have long known, to learning in a shared physical space. Recognizing this, some online programs are gradually incorporating elements of the old-school, brick-and-mortar model—just as online retailers such as Bonobos and Warby Parker use relatively small physical outlets to spark sales

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Canada’s Surprising History of Blackface
Scandalous images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau don’t just tarnish his image—they also point to the hidden history of racism and minstrelsy in his country.
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
The Problem With the Whistleblower System
As the country learned this week, authorities have too much power to decide the fate of whistleblower claims, especially when they involve the intelligence community.
The Atlantic3 min read
The Books Briefing: Where Books and TV Intersect
The past decade’s reappraisal of the television series as a major artistic medium for storytelling has expanded the overlap between books and TV. Many showrunners, including those adapting novels and nonfiction into episodic formats, have been recogn