December 2nd, 2011

More Than Six Million Students Learning Online, Study Finds

By:

For the past nine years the Sloan Consortium and the Babson Survey Research Group have taken a look at the state of online learning in the United States. The 2011 survey reveals that the number of students learning online has now surpassed six million, with nearly one-third of all students in higher education taking at least one online course.

Interestingly, while last year’s annual survey revealed the largest ever year-to-year increase in online enrollment since the study began eight years ago, this year Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 reports the second lowest growth rate. Yet the 10% growth rate for online enrollments still far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.

“The rate of growth in online enrollments is ten times that of the rate in all higher education,” said study co-author I. Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group and Professor of Statistics & Entrepreneurship at Babson College. “While growth rates have declined somewhat from previous years, we see no evidence that a dramatic slowdown in online enrollments is on the horizon.”

“There is a wide variety in rate of growth of online enrollments among different colleges and universities, and also among different programs within the same institution. For example, fully online health sciences programs show higher growth than online programs in other disciplines.”

Key findings in the ninth annual report include:

  • Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.
  • Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show that most are growing.
  • Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.
  • 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
  • There continues to be a consistent minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.

Based on responses from over 2,500 academic leaders, the complete survey report, “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011” is available at http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011.

An infographic of the report:

Online Learning infographic

Add Comment