Adults Going Back to School and Others Favor Online Learning

Barry Lenson

Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States 2009, a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group, proves the point that online education is becoming the instructional option of choice for a growing number of Americans.

“Online enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population, with the most recent data demonstrating no signs of slowing,” the report states. It supports that statement with these statistics:

  • More than 4.6 million students were taking at least one online college course during the fall 2008 term. That’s a 17 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 17 percent online growth rate far exceeds the 1.2 percent growth of the student population in all institutions of higher education.
  • More than one in four higher education students now take at least one college course online.
  • In 2002, only 9.6 percent of American college students were taking some courses online. By 2008, that figure had surged to 25.3 percent.
  • Of America’s 4.6 million students who were enrolled in online degree programs in 2008, 82 percent were pursuing undergraduate degrees, 14 percent were taking graduate-level courses, and the remaining 4 percent were listed as “other.”
  • Only 44.9 percent of people who responded to this survey in 2003 felt that the learning outcomes were just as good for online learning as they were for traditional classroom experiences. By 2009, that percentage had risen to 53 percent.

Yet Acceptance of Online Learning Still Lags Behind . . .

Apparently the explosive growth in online learning hasn’t convinced some academic types of its value. Only 30.9 percent of the students surveyed agreed with the statement, “Faculty at my school accept the validity of online education.”

Too bad. But as online education moves into the mainstream of American higher education, that kind of thinking is bound to change.

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