The Future and Online Learning


Back in 2017, The Chronicle of Higher Education and VitalSource released results from a survey entitled: “Online Education Heading toward the Future“. This report includes key findings regarding distance education as online learning moves into the mainstream.

The survey captured the feedback of 1,286 respondents including higher-ed administrators, chief information officers, provosts, chief academic officers, deans, program directors and chairs, and directors of educational media.

This blog post captures a few highlights as well as connections to the work of the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team at GVSU.

“Online education is not a fad… online education — that is, distance learning delivered digitally, whether for an entire course or part of one — is not going away. A majority of colleges and universities understand this and are working to find the best online learning solutions for their students and faculty members.”

Online Learning Enrollment Expands

Almost all, 94%, of the institutions responding to the survey indicate that they offer classes entirely online, while enrollment in these classes has also increased at most institutions.


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future

Enrollment in Online and Hybrid Learning Increased by 30%

Grand Valley State University started offering online courses before 2007 and the number of online/hybrid courses and enrollment are increasing annually. Since 2016, GVSU’s enrollment in online and hybrid courses has increased by 30%. In fact, in the 2018-19 academic year, 375 online courses are being taught to 10,221 students or 38 percent of the university’s student body. Read more at: “eLearning Team supports growth in Online/Hybrid Learning at GVSU“.

Increases in Acceptance and in Strategic Priority


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future

“There seems to be a growing desire among faculty to at least figure out what it means to teach online.”

Institutions plan to continue or increase the investment, including 72% increasing resources dedicated to online learning initiatives, as illustrated in the following chart:


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future

Quality is Key

According to the survey, 86% of the institutions reported having course enrollment caps for online courses as well as an internal process to review course quality.

Quality Matters and the Online Learning consortium where mentioned as resources for external quality certification.

Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Winners at GVSU

GVSU faculty have received awards for their quality courses through the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Program.

Good Practice Teaching Standards

The eLearning team’s, IDeL group has provided a series of good practice teaching standards are derived from the GVSU’s Online Education Council’s Online/Hybrid Course Peer Review Rubric. The recommendations and good practice guidelines are adapted from: Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric 2011 – 2013 Edition, Penn State Peer Review Guide, Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. (1987) Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin (39)7, and the Blackboard Exemplary Course Rubric.

Instructional Design

51% of those responding to the survey indicated that their institution has 1 or 2 instructional designers, followed by 33% having 3 – 5. One of the important aspects of course quality has been contributed to the use of instructional designers in course creation.


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future

In a recent article by Campus Technology entitled: “Survey: Instructional Designers Drive Better Student Outcomes“, the importance of instructional design (ID) was raised in support of increasing the quality of online courses and in turn improving student learning as part of the 2019 CHLOE 3 REPORT. Read more in the “Working with Instructional Designers Improves Student Outcomes” blog post.

Connect with an Instructional Designer at GVSU!

At GVSU, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team includes 3 instructional designers making up the “IDeL” (Instructional Design for Learning) group.

When preparing, designing, or facilitating an online or hybrid course, please reach out to one of our instructional designers for support, join an Online and Hybrid Faculty Learning Community, and/or review a variety of tipsvideo advice, and good practice teaching recommendations.

Online Teaching Improves Teaching Skills and Strengthens the Institution

In general administrators surveyed indicate that online teaching improves the institution and face to face teaching also. As faculty are prepare to teach online through professional development, this shapes also their teaching in person, traditional courses.


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future


Figure retrieved from: “Online Education Heading toward the Future

eLearning and Emerging Technologies @GVSU

Learn more about the support provided to faculty in the design, development, and delivery of online, hybrid, and traditional courses on the eLearning and Emerging Technologies website.

The eLearning team provides a wide array of support and services designed to empower faculty and contribute to student success.


From getting started to advanced technology integration into teaching, the eLearning team is here to support faculty. We have expertise in instructional design through the IDeL team, creative multimedia production authoring capabilities through the Digital Studio, instructional technology support and learning management solutions such as Blackboard, and a wide array of innovative emerging technologies in the Atomic Object Technology Showcase.

In short, the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team is dedicated to supporting faculty, contributing to teaching excellence, and enhancing student success through:

Using Content, Grade Center, and Announcements in Blackboard to Support Student Learning

In 2016, Blackboard engaged in a study “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes” that included data from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners.

Based on this study of over 3 million learners and 70,000 courses, it was found that 53% of courses were supplemental, meaning content-heavy with low interaction, following by complementary at 24% meaning one-way communication through content, announcements, and gradebook. Additional course archetypes are illustrated in the chart below:


Chart retrieved from: “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes

Additionally, the Blackboard study found:

Courses with the largest amount of student activity take advantage of a diverse set of tools; campuses should identify and investigate these leading courses as sources for best practices and examples that can be adapted by other faculty in their courses.

Blackboard Use at GVSU

At GVSU, the eLearning team was interested in researching how Blackboard is being used by faculty and students. By leveraging the opensource BbStats Blackboard Building Block (which includes a “Latent Class Analysis Report”) by Dr. Szymon Machajewski, it was found that 72% of courses are using Blackboard in Holistic and Complementary ways, whereas 28% of courses fall into the content repository category in the Winter 2019 semester.

19% Holistic

  • 19% or 758 courses at GVSU fall into the Holistic category where 5 more more tools are used per course (eg. content, grade centerannouncements, and possibly assignments, discussions, and/or assessments).

53% Complementary 

  • 53% or 2,082 courses at GVSU are using at least 3 tools per course (eg. content, grade center, and announcements or assignments).

28% Content Repository

  • 28% or 1,088 courses at GVSU are using 2 or less tools pecourse (eg. content and announcements or discussion board). Additionally, there is no use of grade center, assignments, or assessments.
Chart retrieved from: GVSU BbStats Blackboard Building Block, Latent Class Analysis Report
The eLearning team is on mission to support faculty pursuing innovation in teaching and learning. Further, we support the GVSU 2021 Strategic Plan in the use of course management tools such as Blackboard by faculty:

Objective 1.D.2: At least 93% of faculty members regularly use electronic course management tools, such as Blackboard, in their teaching.

We’re here to help!

Interested in learning more about leveraging Blackboard in teaching and learning to support student success at GVSU? Please feel free to contact the eLearning and Emerging Technologies team and be sure to also review: “Teaching with Blackboard” and “Blackboard and 7 Principles of Good Practice”.

  • The “Latent Class Analysis Report” is bundled into BbStats, an opensource Blackboard Building Block by Dr. Szymon Machajewski. The three course design categories were identified by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. This software reports how many courses in this system match the latent analysis. Read more about the study in Springer journal TechTrends Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use.

Distance Learning by the Data – More than one in four students now take at least one distance education course…

Each year, surveys are conducted that track trends in the growth of distance learning. One survey that was released recently is the “Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report“.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

“Key report findings include:

The number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course topped 6 million in 2015.

A year-to-year increase of 226,375 distance education students represents a 3.9% increase over the previous two years.

More than one in four students (29.7%) now take at least one distance education course (a total of 6,022,105 students).

Public institutions command the largest portion of distance education students, with 67.8% of all distance students.

Large enrollment drops among for-profit institutions were driven by a few of the largest institutions; the majority of for-profits grew their distance enrollments.

The number of students studying on a campus has dropped by almost one million (931,317), between 2012 and 2015.”

Another survey was facilitated by the Instructional Technology Council, entitled: “2016 Annual National eLearning Survey“. Here are a few of the key finding from this report:

“2016 Survey Results: Key Findings
For the first time in the twelve-year history of the ITC eLearning survey,
online enrollments at community colleges were essential flat for the 2015-
2016 academic enrollment period. Nationally, overall community college
enrollment has been in a downward trend by an average of 2.7% each
year since 2011. Online enrollments remain stronger than traditional
enrollments but have also been adversely impacted by the postrecession
drop in college enrollments.

➢ eLearning REPORT LINE

Eighty-three percent of respondents indicate their eLearning program
reports to some type of academic administrator. This continues a
twelve-year trend of programs moving from IT oversight to academic


The top three challenges for eLearning program administrators, are:
▪ #1: Addressing accessibility and universal design
▪ #2: Support staff needed for training/technical assistance
▪ #3: Adequate assessment of eLearning classes


Four LMS providers now dominate the higher education market. Eighty seven
percent of respondents listed the following as their current LMS:
▪ #1 Blackboard Learn (43%)
▪ #2 Instructure Canvas (23%)
▪ #3 Moodle (13%)
▪ #4 D2L (8%)


Confidence about compliance has eroded over the past nine years; in
2008, seventy-three percent of respondents said their institution was
either completely or mostly compliant. For 2016, only thirty-seven
percent of respondents were confident they were either completely
or mostly compliant. Well-publicized lawsuits and Dear Colleague
letters from the US DOE and DOJ have complicated the compliance


Ninety-four percent of respondents confirmed that their institution
(primarily community colleges) offers at least one online degree.


Ninety-five percent of respondents described their online courses as
either equivalent (87 percent) or superior (7 percent) to traditional


The 2016 survey included a number of comments from respondents identifying
staffing as a serious challenge. Asked about staffing, 5 percent indicated they
had no staff, 15 percent indicated they had only part-time/temporary staff, 66
percent indicated they had 1-2 staff members, 11 percent said they had 3-5
staff members, and 1 percent said they had 6 or more staff members.


#1: Engaging faculty in developing online pedagogy
#2: Evaluation of faculty
#3: Training


#1: Assessing online student learning and performance
#2: Orientation and preparation for learning online
#3: Low student completion rate


For the 2016 survey, forty-six percent of respondents reported their
retention is comparative for online and traditional courses, and forty-seven
percent indicated their online retention is lower than for traditional

At GVSU, the eLearning team is on mission to support faculty in their work to create high quality online and hybrid courses. Through the work of the IDeL team, faculty have access to a wealth of resources of support, including the Foundations of Online and Hybrid Course Development course, Faculty Learning Communities, and more! Visit the IDeL web site to learn more.

Survey Results: College Presidents Welcome Change

In a Chronicle of Education survey, sponsored by Blackboard, 350 presidents of four-year colleges provided feedback and insights around innovations in higher education, including the role various constituencies play in advancing ideas, as well as their opinions on online learning, hybrid courses, and competency-based degrees.

Read the full report here [PDF]:  “The Innovative University: Presidents Think About Change in American Higher Education”

The focus of the survey highlighted the following areas:

  • How public and private college leaders agree and disagree on the direction of U.S. higher education
  • Who should be leading change on the college campus
  • What innovations will have the most impact in the future

The following post highlights results focused on online and hybrid teaching and learning:

New ideas:

An overwhelming majority of presidents—three quarters at private institutions and even more at public campuses—think that hybrid courses that contain both face-to-face and online components will have a positive impact on higher education. They are more skeptical, however, about massive open online courses (MOOCs), at least in their current form. Half of the presidents surveyed suspect that MOOCs will have a negative impact on higher education.

Two-thirds of presidents say that the pace of change is too slow.

Presidents believe that the focus right now should be on changes to the model of teaching and learning.


Presidents believe hybrid courses that blend face-to-face learning as well as adaptive learning will have the most positive influence on the future of higher education.


57% indicate faculty don’t get enough support to move their courses online/hybrid:


The eLearning team at GVSU is here to support faculty in their work to transform education through good practice in leveraging #EdTech as well as to assist in the delivery of the next generation of teaching and learning through online/hybrid courses. Contact us!

Where will U.S. higher education stand in worldwide rankings 10 years from now?