Online education isn’t just expanding. It’s also getting better.
Student enrollment is up at community colleges online, and the gap between distance learning and face-to-face student completion rates is closing, according to the latest findings from the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).
In an environment where most colleges are struggling with budget cuts and decreased funding, e-learning continues to shine as a new way to learn.
Community Colleges Online See Enrollment Grow
ITC, which represents nearly 400 institutions that offer distance education courses in the United States, Canada and around the world, surveys its members each year about online learning.
The most recent survey, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” notes that distance education enrollments grew by 6.52 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2012. This stands in contrast to overall student enrollment, which declined by 2.64 percent.
Because online education is continuing to grow, more educators are evaluating and addressing concerns about standards, retention and other complaints.
The study notes, “As online instruction continues to mature, distance education administrators see a pressing need to address course quality and design, faculty training and preparation, course assessment, and improvements in student readiness and retention.”
Survey respondents said “providing adequate support services for distance education students” is their top administrative challenge. Many respondents acknowledged their online programs need more support staff, but were hindered by insufficient funding.
The survey also touched on state authorization, meaning a school must comply with another state’s regulations if the school has online students from that state—e.g., a Virginia college with online students from Idaho must abide by Idaho’s regulations. Each state currently has its own standards.
This issue is expected to heat up over the next year, as the Department of Education is urging colleges to have approval procedures in place by July 2014.
2012 Trends in E-Learning
The report spotlights a few events and trends in e-learning that took place in 2012. Notable points include:
- The rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses), which both excite and concern educators
- Growth of organized financial aid fraud rings and how to crack down on this type of crime
- Using etextbooks and open educational resources as a way to cut down on cost for students
- Full accessibility for disabled students is only at 52 percent
- 51 percent of schools charge students additional fees to take online courses
- Up-to-date statistics that show 47 percent of online students are 26 and older; and 65 percent of all online students are female
Rachel Wang is a writer, editor and producer with a background in journalism and online media. She holds a master's degree in library and information science and specializes in online learning news and trends for the Get Educated news team.