Friday, November 19, 2010

Growth Continues in Online Higher Education

In January of this year I wrote about the Sloan Consortium’s report on online education and the staggering 17% increase in online college and university courses since the previous year. Well, that number has been beat. This week, the report was published with results from the same annual survey, nearly a year later, and colleges reported an even higher increase in online enrollment—21% more online students in 2010 than in 2009. The total number of higher education students taking at least one course online in the 2010 fall semester is 5.6 million.

The report—“Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010”—provides data based on responses from 2500 colleges and universities. The report compares the data from public non-profit institutions, private non-profit institutions, and private for-profit institutions, showing differences in strategy and priority. The report addresses the following questions:
  • Is online learning strategic? (63% of institutions said yes; for-profit institutions were most likely to include online learning as part of their strategic plan.)
  • How many students are learning online? (30% of higher ed students are taking at least one course online.)
  • Are learning outcomes comparable to face-to-face? (76% of public institutions rate online education as the same as or superior to face-to-face instruction, 67% of for-profits, and 55% of private non-profits.)
  • What is the impact of the economy on online education? (See below.)
  • How do higher education institutions feel about proposed federal regulations on financial aid? (Fewer than 9% of academic leaders believe that using a debt-to-earnings ratio is a good measure of whether a school’s training leads to gainful employment.)
  • What is the future for online enrollment growth? (Most institutions report they are still growing; some report steady enrollments.)

Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs, while nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.

Why do you think demand for online courses is greater than the demand for face-to-face instruction in an economic downturn?

Further, the report states that almost all recent growth in online enrollments has come from the growth of existing offerings, not from institutions new to offering courses online.

Many of the institutions who utilize LabSim certification training offer LabSim as the curriculum in online IT courses. For those of you who teach those online courses using LabSim, how has LabSim allowed you to meet the demand for online course offerings?

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