Recently the National Center for Educational Statistics released data about distance education at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. This data is worth reviewing because we know that distance education, particularly online, is heavily utilized by adult and other part-time students – the other 85 percent.
While some still question the viability of online learning, more than two out of every three colleges and universities offer credit courses online. And over 12 million students participate in distance education courses, with 77 percent of the enrollments in online courses, 12 percent in hybrid courses, and 10 percent in other forms of distance delivery. It is interesting to note the relatively small number of enrollments in hybrid courses given the amount of attention that delivery mode receives, and the assumptions by some that the hybrid delivery mode would be preferred by both students and institutions. Approximately 1 out of 3 schools offer degree or certificate programs designed to be completed entirely online. Most online and hybrid courses are delivered asynchronously, with 75 percent of the institutions delivering online courses using this approach “to a large extent” and an additional 17 percent using it “to a moderate extent.”
These data are encouraging to see for someone who advocates for adult and part-time students. It is gratifying to see that the top two reasons that institutions offer online courses and programs are directly relevant to the other 85 percent: 68 percent of the institutions that offer online courses and programs do so because they are responding to student demands for flexible schedules, and 67 percent do so to provide access for students who would not otherwise have access.
This is not the first report that has cited growth in online offerings and enrollments, but it is an important source and very encouraging.
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Welcome to The Other 85 Percent. So what does "the other 85 percent" refer to? Research has shown that only about 15 percent of higher education students still fit the traditional definition of young adults age 18 to 22 who live on campus and go to school full time. more