For example, not all institutions surveyed offer online courses equally. According to the report, “private college presidents are among the most skeptical about the value of online learning. Only 36 percent believe a course taken online provides the same value as a class taken in person. This compares with 50 percent of four-year public university presidents.”

Reflecting this attitude, only 51 percent of the “most selective” college presidents say their institution offers online courses, while 86 percent of the “least selective” college presidents say they offer online courses.

Are private college presidents on to something? According to the report, just three in 10 American adults (29 percent) say a course taken online provides an equal educational value to one taken in the classroom. Of those who have actually taken an online course, only 39 percent say a course taken online provides the same educational value as one taken in the classroom.

While it seems many people don’t have a high opinion of the value of online courses, over the past decade “enrollment in online courses at colleges and universities around the country has grown at a greater rate than overall higher educational enrollment,” says the report. According to surveys conducted by the College Board and the Babson Survey Research Group, the number of students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions taking at least one online course increased by 21 percent from fall 2008 to fall 2009. Over that same one-year period, total enrollment increased by only 1.2 percent.

And though most college presidents who believe that plagiarism is on the rise say technology is a contributing factor, only 55 percent believe that plagiarism is on the rise—while 40 percent say it has stayed the same.

In the same private-versus-public vein, the report finds that college presidents’ beliefs about the mission of higher education are linked to their views and experiences with online learning.


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