Online Education in the US [2014 Report]

As I am on my way to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI & #eli2015), specifically to attend the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancement (DETA) Summit, I figured it was critical to review the 2014 Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States just released from the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG):

“The study’s findings point to a competitive marketplace, in which traditional institutions are gaining ground on the for-profits in online and distance education,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “While the rapid pace of online learning growth has moderated, it still accounts for nearly three-quarters of all US higher education’s enrollment increases last year.”

It is clear that online learning is on the rise in America – yet there is a vast difference between how administration and faculty view it. A majority of post-secondary education leaders (70.8%)  indicated that online learning is “critical to their long-term strategy;” however these leaders may struggle with online adoption as only 28% of their faculty find “value” and view online education as “legitimate.” A number of findings in this report show opposing views for online education. For example, these two factions of higher differ  by their awareness of open education resources (OER).

OER_FutureHE

There is much more of this narrative to tease out; and I would like to go through this report further (on the plane) and learn what others in the field have to say. For now I will leave you with some of the ‘quick facts’ shared, and encourage you to download and read through the FULL REPORT if you are in the online learning sphere:

Key report findings include:

  • The number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2014 is up 3.7 %t from the previous year.
  • The year-to-year 3.7% increase in the number of distance education students is the lowest recorded over the 13 years of this report series.
  • Public and private nonprofit institutions recorded distance enrollment growth, but these were offset by a decrease among for-profit institutions.
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face remained unchanged at 74.1%.
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders reporting online learning is critical to their long-term strategy reached a new high of 70.8%.
  • Only 28.0% of academic leaders say that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”
  • The adoption of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) is reaching a plateau, only 8.0% of higher education institutions currently offer one, another 5.6% report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • The proportion of academic leaders who believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses dropped to 16.3%.

Update:

A couple areas to note, and for further discussion this week at #eli2015 and the #DETAsummit (Follow @UWMDETA):

Pgs. 43-44: Discuss the undercount and overcount of distance education, i.e. for “fully online” enrollments – this seems to be hazy, as it might be as learning design for enrollment varies by student population type and course design delivery.

Pg. 44 – “The definition of ‘distance education’ is causing confusion”

There was an interesting segment in this report that struggled with the term “distance education.” This report takes into account distance education, when looking at “fully online” higher education programs. This part of the report reminded me about the Twitter debate of online learning, online education, distance education, and then some when trying to name an update to an edited book. Check out “The State of ______ Learning” thread on Storify to learn what was discussed. What terminology is best? How can we describe/define education that is delivered from a distance/online/on the web/virtually? Please advise.

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