Online Nation: Five Years of Growth In Online Education

Online Nation

The 2007 survey of online education conducted by the Babson Research Survey Group is now available.  The research was funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The survey represents the responses of over 2,500 colleges and universities and addresses these key questions:

How Many Students are Learning Online?:

  • Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term; a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.5 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • Nearly twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006.

Where has the Growth In Online Learning Occurred?:

  • Two-year associate’s institutions have the highest growth rates and account for over one-half of all online enrollments for the last five years.
  • Baccalaureate institutions began the period with the fewest online enrollments and have had the lowest rates of growth.

Why do Institutions Provide Online Offerings?:

  • All types of institutions cite improved student access as their top reason for offering online courses and programs.
  • Institutions that are the most engaged in online education cite increasing the rate of degree completion as a very important objective; this is not as important for institutions that are not as engaged in online learning.
  • Online is not seen as a way to lower costs; reduced or contained costs are among the least-cited objectives for online education.
  • The appeal of online instruction to non-traditional students is indicated by the high number of institutions which cite growth in continuing and/or professional education as an objective for their online offerings.

What are the Prospects for Future Online Enrollment Growth?:

  • Much of the past growth in online enrollments has been fueled by new institutions entering the online learning arena. This transition is now nearing its end; most institutions that plan to offer online education are already doing so.
  • A large majority (69 percent) of academic leaders believe that student demand for online learning is still growing.
  • Virtually all (83 percent) institutions with online offerings expect their online enrollments to increase over the coming year.
  • Future growth in online enrollments will most likely come from those institutions that are currently the most engaged; they enroll the most online learning students and have the highest expectations for growth.

What are the Barriers to Widespread Adoption of Online Education?:

  • Academic leaders cite the need for more discipline on the part of online students as the most critical barrier, matching the results of last year’s survey.
  • Faculty acceptance of online instruction remains a key issue. Those institutions most engaged in online do not believe it is a concern for their own campus, but do see it as a barrier to more wide-spread adoption of online education.
  • Higher costs for online development and delivery are seen as barriers among those who are planning online offerings, but not among those who have online offerings.
  • Academic leaders do not believe that there is a lack of acceptance of online degrees by potential employers.

 

The full report is available here.

Or, here: online-nation