More students are taking online courses, but fewer academic leaders see virtual classes as critical to their long-term strategies, according to a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group. The study also found that fewer academic leaders rate learning outcomes of online education as equal to or superior to traditional teaching.
According to the 2015 Online Report Card—Tracking Online Education in the United States, online enrollment rose nearly 4% over 2014 figures, with private nonprofit schools showing an 11.3% increase. Private for-profit institutions went the other way, with enrollments shrinking by nearly 3%. Public colleges and universities also had the largest number of students in distance education, with more than 70% of undergraduates and almost 40% of graduate students taking online classes.
However, the number of administrators who said they believe that online learning was critical to their institutions fell from 71% in 2014 to 63% in 2015. Administrators who thought learning outcomes compared favorably with face-to-face instruction also slipped, from 77% in 2014 to 71% last year. In addition, 29% of administrators said their faculty members accept the value of online education, a lower rate than the percentage recorded in 2004.
There was more positive news when it comes to massive open online courses (MOOCs). The percentage of institutions offering MOOCs rose from 2.6% in 2012 to 8% in 2014 to 11% in 2015. However, 59% of schools said they have no plans to offer MOOCs.