Report predicts online learning explosion by 2015

More students are taking exclusively online college courses.

The number of college students taking online college courses will equal the number of students who attend classes in a traditional classroom by 2015, according to a market research firm whose research contradicts another recent study suggesting a possible leveling off in online learning.

The research firm, Ambient Insight, released a report this month that focuses on the varying demand for educational technology tools in K-12 schools and universities. The report also details growth trends that suggest the recent spike in online college courses likely wasn’t a passing phase.

In four years, the report said, there will be more than 25 million postsecondary students taking at least one online course. But the more jarring statistic might be Ambient Insight’s projections for traditional courses.

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The number of college students taking traditional face-to-face classes will plummet from 14.4 million in 2010 to 4.1 million in 2015, according to the report. And with the population of only-online students expected to triple during that time, so-called traditional learning will be level with online learning.

The research firm said the five-year spike in online college courses would owe, in part, “to the proliferation and success of for-profit online schools” such as the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, which draw millions of students with flexible internet-based class schedules.

Colleges and universities that specialize in online courses have seen enrollments skyrocket since the U.S. economy fell into recession in fall 2008. The Ambient Insight research shows that, more than two years later, many institutions are still reporting near-record enrollment increases.

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