Staying the Course: Online Education In the United States, 2008

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The 2008 Sloan survey of online education in the United States. The survey was conducted by the Babson Research Survey Group.  The survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  The survey represents the responses of over 2,500 colleges and universities and addresses the following key questions:

How many students are learning online?:

  • Over 3.9 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2007 term; a 12 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 12.9 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.2 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • Over twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2007.

What is Impact of the Economy on Online Enrollments?:

  • There is widespread agreement that higher fuel costs will lead to more students selecting online courses.
  • Institutions that offer programs to serve working adults are the most positive about the potential for overall enrollment growth being driven by rising unemployment.

Do Academic Leaders and Faculty Agree?:

  • Both chief academic officers and online teaching faculty said that the flexibility in meeting the needs of students was the most important motivation for teaching online.
  • Being required to teach online had the lowest rated motivationin each group.
  • The largest difference in view is in the ranking of additional income as a motivation; chief academic officers ranked this second of seven items, faculty ranked it fifth.
  • Faculty ranking stressed student centered issues more so than the ranking of chief academic officers.

Is online Learning Strategic?:

  • The proportion of institutions declaring that online education is critical to their long-term strategy shows a small decline for fall 2007.
  • The proportion of institutions that see online education as a critical part of their long-term strategy appears to have reached a plateau over the past several years.
  • Public institutions continue to be the most likely to believe that online education is critical to their long-term strategy.
  • Approximately one-third of baccalaureate institutions consider online to be critical, a rate about half that of other institutional types.

What Disciplines are Best Represented Online?:

  • There is roughly equal penetration for seven of the eight major discipline areas being examined.
  • Engineering is the only discipline area where online representation is much lower than for other areas.
  • Public institutions have the highest penetration rates for all disciplines other than engineering.
  • Associate’s institutions have a wide lead in online penetration for psychology, social sciences, and liberal arts.

The full report is available here.

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