More than half of higher education institutions participating in a new survey offer at least one fully online program, and an additional one-third offer hybrid programs or online courses.

The new report updates a 2013 report that was a joint project of The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and The Learning House, Inc.

The number of institutions offering no online or hybrid courses or programs is declining. The report predicts soon will be in the single digits as a proportion of all institutions.

More institutions now offer online programs, and the number of programs offered also is increasing. Comparing data from the 2013 and 2016 surveys, the proportion of institutions that offered five or more fully online programs increased from 15 percent to 25 percent.

“No matter the modality, students are starting to expect flexibility to not just be an option but the norm in their educational experience,” according to the report. “Online or on ground, technology is pervading the classroom.”

The updated survey also reveals how more CIC member institutions have overcome barriers that in 2013 prevented them from increasing online course or program offerings.

More than 80 percent of surveyed CIC member institutions said they experienced barriers to online learning, including lack of acceptance of online instruction by faculty, as well as it requiring a greater amount of faculty time and effort to instruct online. But the 2016 report shows that fewer than half of those surveyed said those barriers still exist for them.

One of the major reasons that less barriers exist is due to the availability of more robust wireless solutions, says St. Edward’s University of Austin, Texas. Read more about their experience here.

A new Wi-Fi performance boost could also help pave the way for stronger online programs. Read more here.

(Next page: 12 recommendations to build a strong online program)

Overcoming those barriers has led to positive outcomes, and the report notes that nearly two-thirds of CIC member institutions that offer online programs have increased both revenue and student enrollment. Three-quarters increased student access to their programs, and more than half said they have attracted students outside of what they consider their “traditional” service area.

Forty-four percent of surveyed CIC member institutions hope to increase their international student enrollment in the next two years, and 33 percent said they hope to develop competency-based education courses.

The report also offers a number of recommendations to help CIC member institutions develop and deliver online programs. The recommendations are not one-size-fits-all, but are intended to act as guideposts to build a more robust online presence.

1. Hire an online leader and appropriate staff.
2. Educate and incentivize faculty to teach online.
3. Revise policies and procedures to accommodate online faculty.
4. Use good accounting and budgeting practices.
5. Expand online offerings.
6. Save national and international marketing dollars for niche programs.
7. Accept all legitimate course credit.
8. Invest in outcomes.
9. Synthesize online and on-ground operations for a consistent student experience.
10. Offer competency-based programs and alternatives such as badges and bootcamps.
11. Provide more and better faculty development.
12. Take advantage of professional organizations.


About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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