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Report: 32 Percent of Higher Ed Students Take Courses Online

According to Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group, more than 6.7 million students are now taking at least one course online. At the same time, institutional adoption of massive open online courses (MOOCs) remains low, with only 2.6 percent of respondents reporting that their school has MOOCS and another 9.4 reporting that they have them in the planning stages.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they don't believe MOOCs are a sustainable method for delivering courses, and 27.8 percent said they are. Chief academic officers surveyed were neutral on MOOC sustainability at a rate of 45.2 percent;
  • Nearly a third of higher education students now take at least one course online, at 32 percent;
  • Seventy-seven percent of respondents said that online learning outcomes were the same or superior to those for in-person instruction, up from 57.2 percent in 2003, the first year the study was conducted;
  • Only 30.2 percent of chief academic officers surveyed reported that they believe their faculty see online learning as valuable and legitimate;
  • Nearly 70 percent of academic leaders who responded said online learning was critical to their long-term growth strategy;
  • Lower retention rates for students in online courses is an obstacle for the growth of distance learning, with 73.5 percent of chief academic officers surveyed reporting that it is either an "important" or "very important" barrier, an increase of nearly 12 percent since 2008; and
  • Academic leaders also reported student discipline in online courses and acceptance of online degrees by potential employers as barriers to growth, at 88.8 percent and just over 40 percent, respectively.

"The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrollments have shown a decline," said Jeff Seaman, co-author of the study and co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, in a prepared statement.

Added Study Co-Author I. Elaine Allen, "Some praise [MOOCs] for their ability to learn about online pedagogy and attract new students, but concerns remain about whether they are a sustainable method for offering courses."

The report is the tenth annual Survey of Online Learning from Babson, and was completed in collaboration with the College Board. It is "based on responses from more than 2,800 academic leaders," according to information released by Babson, and was underwritten by the Sloan Consortium and Pearson.

To see the full report, visit sloanconsortium.org.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

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