Two-thirds of colleges are adding online programs, survey finds

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Dive Brief: 

  • Two-thirds of colleges are adding online programs —  based on student demand — to sustain overall enrollment, according to an annual report tracking trends in virtual education. 
  • The CHLOE 8 survey found a similar share of colleges, 63%, are conducting market research to determine which online degrees would be popular among current and prospective students. And 42% of colleges are creating online versions of in-demand on-campus programs. 
  • However, the survey suggests faculty and students may not be fully ready for online learning. Only 22% of survey respondents said many of their full-time faculty have experience building online courses, and few institutions require orientation for virtual learners — even those who are mostly or exclusively in online programs. 

Dive Insight: 

The eighth Changing Landscape of Online Education report — from market research firm Eduventures and quality assurance organization Quality Matters— reveals how colleges are adapting to growing student interest in online learning. 

The findings are based on over 300 responses from chief online officers working at two- and four-year colleges across the public and private sectors. They were surveyed in January and February. 

Chief online officers reported that 36% of their fully online programs saw enrollment growth of 4% or greater among traditional-age undergraduates from 2021 to 2022. That’s compared to 22% of on-campus programs that enjoyed such increases. 

Similar trends played out for adult undergraduates, who the report defines as ages 25 and older. Nearly 51% of fully online programs saw enrollment of these students grow by at least 4% from 2021 to 2022, compared to almost 19% of in-person programs. 

Colleges are taking notice of these trends. Over two-thirds of colleges, 36%, report reexamining their strategies to adapt to growing demand for online learning, while 39% said their priorities are already consistent with this shift. 

A smaller share of institutions, 10%, suggested they are struggling to keep up with shifting student interests. 

“For many institutions struggling with enrollment and revenue levels, success in building online capacity may spell the difference between viability and crisis in the next decade,” Ron Legon, executive director emeritus of Quality Matters, said in a statement. 

Greater shares of colleges are requiring faculty members to train in online teaching than have in the past. Nearly three-quarters of community colleges, 73%, mandate this type of formal institutional training, compared to 43% of four-year public institutions and 50% of private four-year institutions. 

Similarly, community colleges tended to report the highest levels of faculty with online teaching and course design experience. 

Monetary incentives, used by 68% of surveyed chief online officers, were the most common method to encourage faculty to develop online courses. Meanwhile, 55% of respondents said they offered remote work as an institutional incentive for instructors to teach online, making that the most common method used for encouraging teachers to use virtual instruction.


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