Are Student-Directed Activities Helping Shape the Future of Online Education?

Every year the Sloan Consortium releases its annual research on the online education market, and the new numbers are in. This year, 2800 colleges and universities responded to survey questions about online learning, weighing in on its strategic significance, student participation, future role within our education system, and more.

The research seems to be in line with our expectations, while we were pleasantly encouraged to see what academic leaders think about student-directed learning.  Here are the highlights:

When this report series began in 2002, less than one-half of all higher education institutions reported online education was critical to their long-term strategy. In 2013, 66 percent of CIOs agreed.

The number of students taking at least one online course increased by over 411,000 to 7.1 million. And while this rate exceeds overall enrollment growth, it is the lowest growth rate we have seen in online education since Sloan started its research in 2002. Another interesting fact is that the proportion of higher education students taking at least one online course is at an all-time high of 33.5 percent.

MOOCs have received their fair share of attention over the last year, yet, 53 percent of participating schools reported that they are still undecided about MOOCs. Approximately one-third said they have no plans for a MOOC. The study went on to say that only 23 percent of academic leaders believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, down from 28 percent in 2012.

It appears that most academic leaders think that online education is continuing to gain traction. Ninety percent of academic leaders surveyed believe that it is likely or very likely that a majority of all higher education students will be taking at least one online course in five years’ time.

What’s even more interesting is that two-thirds of chief academic officers believe that there will be substantial use of student-directed, self-paced components in future online courses. We believe the emergence of these learning principles bode well for a market that is pursuing personalized and competency-based learning as a means to help students succeed, and we are optimistic that a large percentage of people within the halls of academia agree.

Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States” is available for download from Sloan-C’s website.

Scott Lomas

Scott has 20 years of experience in partnering with universities, primarily in the areas of enrollment management, student success, and online initiatives. He attended UCLA and earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kent.