I was reading a very interesting article by Steve Lohr of the New York Times, regarding online education. The author mentioned a study conducted by the SRI International for the Department of Education. The report shows a significant increase of performance for students in online programs, as compared to classroom students. What has changed the last few years is the method of delivery of instruction. Streaming videos and collaborating tools, through applications based on social networking technology, have made the campus a little emptier that it used to be. A significant increase of student enrollment in institutions with online programs is not a surprise, since most of these students enroll in online programs.
According to the article, a very important factor is the development of networking technology, which allows students to work on assignments together and engage in conversations in synchronous mode. Simply put, the goal is not to create individual learners but online communities of learners. I guess, this counteracts the perception that technology isolates.
The complete article can be found here: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom.