2011 Distance Education Survey Results
Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges
In the fall of 2011, ITC invited its member institutions to provide valuable information about their programs to distance education practitioners. One hundred and forty three community colleges completed the ITC Survey.
2011 Distance Education Survey Results: Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges
April 2012, Instructional Technology Council
In Focus: The Year in Review 2011
Most states and campuses have adjusted to doing more with less as the effects of the Great Recession have lingered into 2011. The economic downturn has impacted higher education as a whole, and distance education programs have suffered, especially in the areas of budget and staffing. Colleges have lacked the funding to address the chronic problems of student retention, course quality, ADA compliance, faculty training, student preparedness and accreditation-based assessment.
Focus areas in 2011 included moving to the cloud, shifting to mobile devices, the future of the learning management system, regional accreditation, and open educational resources.
Not surprisingly, the federal and state government’s interest in distance education has intensified, as student demand and enrollment in distance education has increased. Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act of 1965 every four to six years, so distance educators need to pay close attention to any new regulations Congress may attempt to put in place by 2014. Some key issues include: state authorization for institutions offering distance education to out-of-state students, financial aid fraud rings and student authentication.
Observations and Trends
Since ITC began surveying its members in 2005, continuity in a number of response areas has emerged.
- Distance education programs—regardless of geographic location, enrollments, staffing and budget—face many of the same challenges with students, faculty and administration.
- Demand for distance education courses by community college students continues to grow—at a rate much greater than demand for traditional courses. However, the unprecedented growth of the past decade is slowing on many campuses.
ITC survey participants reported an 8.2 percent increase for distance education enrollments from Fall 2010 to Fall 2011—substantially higher than the overall increase in national campus enrollments, which averaged less than one percent nationally. The ITC survey reported a nine percent increase in distance learning enrollments in 2010.
The Sloan Consortium reported a ten percent growth in distance learning enrollments in its study, “Going the Distance, Online Education in the United States 2011.” Both surveys confirm two major trends: (1) online enrollments have been the predominant source of enrollment increases in higher education for the last decade, far out-stripping traditional enrollments, and (2) the growth in online enrollments is slowing (from a high of more than 20 percent growth a few years ago, to a more modest eight to 10 percent growth last year).
- As online instruction continues to mature, distance education administrators see a pressing need to address course quality and design, faculty training and preparation, course assessment, and improvements in student readiness and retention.
- Growth in the use of blended/hybrid and Web-assisted, Web-enhanced, Web-facilitated classes continues. This year, more respondents identified issues associated specifically with blended/hybrid courses.
- The gap between distance learning and face-to-face student completion rates has significantly narrowed. Half of the survey respondents indicated that they have achieved equivalency.
- Virtual student services and technology support services remain a priority on most campuses. It is unclear why a number of campuses have reduced these services in the past few years, but possible causes include budget cuts and increasing the bar for the level of effectiveness for these services.
- The learning management system (LMS) market remains volatile. One third of campuses intend to change their LMS in the next two years.
- Online program administration has shifted so that academic administrators, such as deans and the academic vice president, rather than the IT department or library services, are responsible for distance education.
- Many campuses continue to lack compliance with the accessibility requirements for online instruction, outlined in sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. For more information.
- Nearly every distance education program authenticates student access to online courses.