However, even those in favor of online learning admit face-to-face interaction — which can also help keep students motivated and personally engaged — is lost.
Ndongfack, whose Web-only institution opened in 2000, said online studies were not easy, leaving him feeling isolated.
“There is no one there to give you instant support,” he said.
The growth of online degree programs is also constrained by poor Internet accessibility in parts of Asia and beyond.
More than 80 percent of South Koreans and 60 percent of Malaysians have online access, but in China the rate slips to about 40 percent and it slumps to around 10 percent in India.
Other criticisms include inadequate regulation, allegations of poor-quality teaching, student cheating, and the fact that online degrees are still not as widely recognized as traditional ones in the marketplace, industry experts say.
However, Ansary says such teething problems will be addressed over time, and in a few decades students will no longer attend just one university but several, picking and choosing from online offerings.
“These are early days,” he said. “The window is just opening.”