Colleges reported the highest-ever annual increase in online enrollment--more than 21 percent--last year, according to a report on an annual survey of 2,600 higher-education institutions from the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group, as seen in The Chronicle. The 21% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population and nearly 30% of all college and university students now take at least one course online. Online learning has truly become a force to be reckoned with.
With an increasing demand for online learning, college administrators at public universities are urging their fellow colleagues to seriously consider online learning as a larger part of the solution to maintaining academic quality and student access amid budget cuts and dwindling state contributions in this tough economy, as reported in an article in The Chronicle. In a pilot program, the University of California will enroll approximately 5,000 undergraduates in high-demand courses next year in what the university hopes will allow them to stay "excellent without becoming exclusionary." The university's commitment to educating middle and lower-income students along with its dire finances are the impetus for this program.
Despite initial reservations by some faculty members to online learning and teaching, more faculty members are starting to see online education as a quality alternative to face-to-face learning. In a special report on online learning in The Chronicle, over 80% of faculty members rate online courses as not being inferior to traditional courses. Faculty members also indicated that the top motivating factor for teaching online courses is meeting students' needs for flexible access and over 70% of faculty members consider it the best way to reach particular groups of students.
The complete report, "Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010", is available here.