Enrollments in distance education programs around the country continue to increase, despite a decline in overall higher education enrollment, according to a new report from the Online Learning Consortium.
In recent years, the Department of Education’s (ED) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has taken a keen interest in distance education as a form of competency-based learning and how to define it for the purposes of federal financial aid. Currently, distance education courses are eligible for federal aid if they provide “regular and substantive interaction” between students and instructors, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Between 2013 and 2014, there was a 3.9 percent increase in the number of students taking at least one distance education course, up slightly from 3.7 percent in the previous year, according to the report. Distance enrollments at private non-profit institutions grew by 11.3 percent, while enrollments at private for-profit institutions dropped by 2.8 percent. The largest portion of distance education students were found at public institutions, with 72.7 percent of undergraduate students and 38.7 percent of graduate-level students enrolled in distance education.
Out of a total of 5.8 million distance education students in 2014, 2.85 million were taking all of their courses through distance education, compared with 2.97 million who were taking only some of their courses through that learning model. The number of students not enrolled in any distance education declined for the second year in a row, down 434,236 from 2012 to 2013 and down another 390,815 from 2013 to 2014.
According to the Online Learning Consortium’s report, academic leaders continue to view the learning outcomes for distance education to be “as good or better” than traditional, face-to-face instruction, with a rate of 71.4 percent in 2015.
Publication Date: 2/12/2016