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14 Online Learning Challenges at Community Colleges


Ever wonder if the online learning team at your community college is anywhere near normal?  Is your distance learning program facing the same challenges as peer institutions across the nation?

The Instructional Technology Council (ITC), a non-profit organization that tracks online learning trends at community colleges across the nation, has come up with a loose list of 14 generalized indicators of what “normal” may look like deep inside two-year colleges when it comes to the impact of distance learning. This loose list is based on a survey of 143 accredited institutions that responded to ITC’s annual distance learning trends survey, published March 2012.

The ITC’s annual survey, “Trends in elearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” suggests that online learning “typically” challenges community colleges in the following 14 ways.

The following 14 points are paraphrased, for exact wording and awesome insights into elearning at two-year colleges, download the full report, Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges, free online.  See page 21, “Is Your Program Typical?” for the ITC’s summation of macro trends.


Your community college may be normal if online learning ….

1.    Represents your college’s #1 enrollment growth stream

2.    You feel overwhelmed by surging student demand for online courses

3.    You are dedicated to the flexibility and convenience of online learning as a part of your overall mission to increase access to higher education

4.    Your online students include an equal number of traditional and non-traditional students

5.    You enroll 60% female students, 40% male

6.    Your distance learning team reports to an academic official, such as a Dean

7.    Your staff feels over-worked, under-funded, and squeezed into a tiny office space

8.    Your team supports about 160 online classes each term

9.    Your college just keeps adding more web-based or hybrid class sections

10. Your online learning team assumes the role of a change agent within the college, leading the way through ed tech innovations and paradigm flips

11. Your distance learning staff assumes the role of gatekeeper for quality standards and new measures on how students learn

12. Your team feels little understood by top management which has little generational experience with online learning

13. Your online learning team has little control over faculty hiring, retention and evaluation

14. Your distance education dept. feels over whelmed by government regulations and shifting local, state, and federal laws that encompass online learning


The ITC began tracking distance education trends in 2005. The Council issues an annual updated trends report based on the survey responses of member institutions. ITC is an affiliated council of American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). ITC collaborates closely with the AACC, especially when advocating legislation that affects distance learning at community colleges across the USA and Canada.

AACC is the national voice for community colleges in the United States and Canada.  It provides institutional support in the areas of professional development, advocacy, networking, publications, continuing education, grant programs, and telecommunications for its members.