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
➢ ONLINE ENROLLMENTS FLAT
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
➢ GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING eLEARNING ADMINISTRATORS
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
➢ MOST POPULAR LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (LMS) SOLUTIONS
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%)
➢ ACCESSIBILITY COMPLIANCE (ADA SECTIONS 504 AND 508)
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
➢ ONLINE DEGREES
Ninety-four percent of respondents confirmed that their institution
(primarily community colleges) offers at least one online degree.
➢ ONLINE/TRADITIONAL COURSE EQUIVALENCY
Ninety-five percent of respondents described their online courses as
either equivalent (87 percent) or superior (7 percent) to traditional
➢ STAFFING OF eLEARNING PROGRAMS
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.
➢ TOP 3 CHALLENGES ADMINISTRATORS HAVE WITH eLEARNING FACULTY
#1: Engaging faculty in developing online pedagogy
#2: Evaluation of faculty
➢ TOP 3 CHALLENGES ADMINISTRATORS HAVE WITH eLEARNING
#1: Assessing online student learning and performance
#2: Orientation and preparation for learning online
#3: Low student completion rate
➢ STUDENT COMPLETION RATES
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.