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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

Online Learners Top 3 Million

November 14, 2006

The number of students taking online college classes reached an all-time high this year.  In fall 2005, an additional 850,000 students took at least one online course, increasing the online student population to 3.2 million—a 35 percent increase in enrollment in a year. Since 2002, the number of online learners has doubled.  Online students now are estimated to represent around 17 percent of all postsecondary education students.

The Sloan Survey on Online Learning, with findings reported in “Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, 2006,” shows the majority of online learners concentrated at the undergraduate level, with more than half studying at community colleges. This year, an increasing number of chief academic officers (59 percent) agreed that “online education is critical to the long-term strategy of my institution.”  Seventy-three percent of chief academic officers agreed that online education reaches students not served by face-to-face programs, and more than 60 percent indicated that learning outcomes in online education were either equal to or better than those in face-to-face learning. The most cited barrier to widespread adoption of online learning was that students needed more discipline to succeed in online courses (64 percent), followed by greater faculty time and effort required to teach online (32 percent).
The report, which can be downloaded for free, also has additional findings by institutional sector.