According to the Babson Survey report, findings revealed that:

  • The year-to-year 3.7 percent 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 percent.
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders reporting online learning is critical to their long-term strategy reached a new high of 71 percent.
  • Only 28 percent of academic leaders say that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”
  • The adoption of MOOCs is reaching a plateau—only 8 percent of higher education institutions currently offer one, another 5.6 percent 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 percent, down from 28 percent in 2012.
  • Decreasing numbers of leaders see MOOCs as a way for institutions to learn about online pedagogy—28 percent this year, down from 50 percent and 44 percent for the last two years.
  • Increasing numbers of chief academic officers think that retaining students is a greater problem for online courses than for face-to-face courses—45 percent in 2014 versus 40 percent in 2013, and 27 percent in 2004.

View the report’s comprehensive infographic here.

“With a convincing majority of responding academic leaders saying that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy, and nearly three-quarters claiming student outcomes from online learning are the same or better than outcomes from face-to-face instruction, I think we can safely say that online learning has become an established and increasingly important component of the American higher education landscape,” said Joel Hartman, vice provost and CIO of the University of Central Florida and OLC Board President.

However, though online learning may be an “established component” of higher education, the Babson survey also emphasizes Learning House’s point that colleges and universities must differentiate their offerings for increasingly discerning online students.

“Online learning has now shifted to be a mainstream form of delivery for the majority of higher education institutions,” said Todd Hitchcock, SVP, Pearson Online Learning Services. “We are now seeing colleges and universities take a much more strategic approach to creating program offerings that are scalable, sustainable and personalized to improve academic and employment outcomes for learners.”

For further information, including report methodologies, deeper data, and advice and best practices for interested colleges and universities, visit the reports:

“Grade Level” by Babson

“Online College Students 2014” by The Learning House


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