The Instructional Technology Council has just published the findings from its study on the impact of online learning at community colleges. The study found that during the 2008-09 academic year there was a 22 percent increase in online education enrollment which is up from an 11 percent increase the prior year. The growth rate is also higher than the 17 percent growth that the Sloan Consortium recently reported for online learning across all higher education institutions and is significantly greater than the overall higher education growth rate of 1.2 percent.
Survey respondents named three reasons for the increase in enrollments at community colleges including: the economic downturn (42 percent), typical growth for distance education classes (39 percent), and new enrollment initiatives (16 percent). In an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fred Lokken, author of the report, pointed out that community college enrollment has increased in general with the economic downturn and online courses are especially appealing to those looking for new jobs. Lokken also said that the higher growth for online courses at community colleges could be because community colleges show more enthusiasm towards these programs.
The survey also found that the gap between online learning and face-to-face student completion rates continues to decrease. This year, the completion rate for online learning programs was 72 percent compared to face-to-face at 76 percent.