Enthusiasm, And Wariness, About Online Education

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The number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6.7 million, according to a survey conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group:

“The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrollments have shown a decline,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group.

“Institutional opinions on MOOCs [massive open online courses] are mixed,” added co-author I. Elaine Allen. “Some praise them for their ability to learn about online pedagogy and attract new students, but concerns remain about whether they are a sustainable method for offering courses.”

Key report findings include:

•Thirty-two percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.

• Only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC; another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.

• Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face classes.

• The proportion of chief academic officers who believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education has not increased. It now stands at only 30.2 percent.

• The proportion of chief academic leaders who say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high of 69.1 percent.

• The perception of a majority of chief academic officers at all types of institutions is that lower retention rates for online courses remain a barrier to the growth of online instruction. (Read more here.)

All very interesting—it seems that we’re seeing huge growth in the number of people who are experiencing online education, at the same time that considerable wariness and skepticism about online education persists (at least among faculty and some administrators).

That last bullet point—that lower retention rates for online courses remain a barrier to the growth of online instruction—reminds me of my post from the other day about how less than 10 percent of people who sign up for a MOOC end up finishing the course. This is clearly a big problem for online education. Can anyone propose a solution?

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2 Responses to “Enthusiasm, And Wariness, About Online Education”

  1. Jim Sellers says:

    I have the advantage of both graduating and working for an online University. Athabasca University (athabascau.ca)is an accredited Canadian university established in 1970 to provide distance learning to people who have no easy access to post secondary learning in their communities and/or who wish to continue their studies while working. We have currently over 40,000 students.
    I feel strongly that online University education is essential to help all economies tap into the pool of skilled talent that exists in the numbers of working adults who, for any reason, did not complete their degrees or wish to continue to graduate degrees. This is where the workforce for the knowledge economy will come from.
    Most MBA students are working professionals as are many Masters students. Many of them have the financial support and flexibility of a supportive employer. Most people don’t have that but many will consider continuing their post secondary education if they have the flexibility of time and reduced costs to take the course. What we need is some government incentives to encourage working adults to continue with their schooling while they work and create a larger knowledge based work force.
    I do not agree with the MOOC, primarily because of its size and inability to provide two way dialogue between the instructor and the learner. Also free is a problem, everything has a value and the vehicles required to provide the training and awarding of grades for the work done is not free. We value things that require investments of both money and time. This is especially try of skilled training.

  2. […] of my favorite bloggers, Annie Murphy Paul has written extensively about MOOCs and it was here I first read that statistic about less than 10% of registrants finishing MOOCs. However, in her […]

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