The online difference

The e-learning marketplace is expected to become an $11 billion industry in the coming years, according to Arthur D. Little Inc.

Although there are no national statistics on how effective online learning is compared to the traditional classroom setting, Alan Mabe, dean of graduate studies at Florida State University, said about 90 percent of the university's online students complete the courses.

And unlike many e-learning courses, FSU provides a mentor system for students, an electronic discussion board and e-mail access to professors. Students can even fax or phone for help.

"I'm not sure online learning is the best thing for a typical 18-year-old freshman," Mabe said. "But as one matures, one can see the role of it. You get much more built-in motivation."

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