Distance Education Enrollment Continues to Grow, According to a Recent Study

National
Posted By Terri Williams on March 23, 2016 at 11:35 am
Distance Education Enrollment Continues to Grow, According to a Recent Study

Online education continues to grow at a rapid pace, despite the fact that some educators at traditional institutions continue to view distance education unfavorably.

According to “The Online Report Card: Tracking Online,” released in February 2016, and conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group, 2015 was the 13th consecutive year in which there was an increase in the number of students taking at least one distance class.

Other interesting findings from the study include:

  • Over the past year, enrollment at private non-profit institutions grew by 11.3%, but declined by 2.8% at private for-profit institutions
  • 14% of college students take all of their classes online
  • 28% of college students take at least one distance education course

Contrary to popular belief, for-profits don’t make up the largest percentage of online enrollment:

  • Only 30% of college students who take all of their classes online attend a for-profit school

Regarding location:

  • 53% of college students who take all of their classes online live in the same state as their online institution
  • 41% of college students who take all of their classes online live in the U.S., but in a different state as their institution

Acceptance of distance education among traditional schools is partial at best:

  • The number of chief academic officers that believe that online learning is a vital part of their long-term strategy decreased from 70.8% to 63.3% over the past year
  • 29% of academic leaders believe their faculty consider online learning to be legitimate and valuable

That acceptance varies depending on the prevalence of online courses at an institution:

  • 60% of faculty at the schools with the largest online enrollment believe that online learning is legitimate and valuable
  • 6% of faculty at the schools with no online enrollment believe that online learning is legitimate and valuable

One of the most interesting aspects of the report is the reluctance of faculty at traditional institutions to embrace distance education. GoodCall spoke with Dani Babb, PhD, an online education consultant and founder and CEO of The Babb Group, about this issue.

Babb says she finds the disdain and bias fascinating, but admits that it’s something she often encounters when working with traditional faculty members. “They do not necessarily have the skills to teach classes online,” says Babb, explaining, “The process is different, the learner demographic is often different, the methodology is different, and the ways in which students learn online is different.”

In addition, Babb says the course delivery is different and the needs of learners require almost 24/7 faculty support.  In other words, forget about office hours from 10 to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Instructors need much more flexibility, and they must be comfortable communicating over a variety of digital formats. “And for instructors who are accustomed to serving in a more traditional role, and haven’t been teaching online for some time and developed coping strategies, it can be quite frustrating.”

This problem is so common that Babb Academy has created a four-week “Lectern to Laptop” series to try to serve instructors by helping them learn how to make the transition.  The series teaches traditional instructors how to boost participation, integrate video and multimedia tools, write plagiarism-proof assignments, and design competency-based deliverables.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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