With six years of accumulated data and tracking of pertinent developments, the annual "Trends in eLearning" survey has emerged as a recognized tool that both confirms trends and points to best practices for Distance Education programs.
Online education has had a profound impact on the evolution and scope of Distance Education. Other modalities of electronically-mediated instruction continue to help colleges improve access to higher education, but online education has simply redefined the landscape of higher education.
The Instructional Technology Council (ITC) inaugurated an annual survey about Distance Education six years ago with the intent to provide data of use and application to administrators and faculty. The ITC also committed to an annual cycle of conducting surveys to better track emerging trends in Distance Education.
The annual report, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” reflects the results of a survey of 226 community colleges—member institutions of the ITC and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)—conducted during the late-fall of 2009. Fred Lokken, associate dean for the Truckee Meadows Community College WebCollege, authored the study. Results of the survey were released at the ITC annual conference in Fort Worth, Texas, in February and a printed copy of the survey has since been mailed to each ITC member as well as to more than 1,200 community college presidents.
Key findings include:
- Campuses report a 22 percent increase for distance learning enrollments, while Sloan-C reports increases in overall campus enrollments averaged less than two percent.
- Most programs struggle to recruit faculty and offer additional sections to meet the ever-increasing student demand. Older, non-traditional students are attracted to online classes and degree programs since they fit into their busy schedules to offer a solution for career advancement and/or change.
- Student demand remains very high with campuses reporting a significant increase in enrollments as a result of both continued student interest and the impact of the economic recession.
- Distance education administrators continue to focus on the need to improve course quality and design, faculty training and preparation, course assessment, and improving student readiness and retention. Programs are challenged by a lack of staff and resources to be successful.
- Growth in the use of blended/hybrid and Web-assisted/Web-enhanced/Web-facilitated classes continues.
- The completion rate gap between distance learning and face-to-face student has significantly narrowed. Completion rates jumped to a reported 72 percent, just below the 76 rate for face-to-face classes.
- Virtual student services and technology support services remain a priority on most campuses. Not only do students see these services as more convenient, but colleges often find they are more cost-effective than traditional campus-based services.
- The learning management system (LMS) market remains volatile. The mergers of Blackboard-WebCt and Blackboard-Angel have fostered a great deal of uncertainty.
- Most campuses report they already use a unique username/password (important for compliance with the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) which requires that campuses be able to confirm that the student enrolled in the online class is the student doing the coursework.
- Campuses continue to deal with student-related issues of initial preparedness (technical skills, completing an orientation, needed maturity and ability to work independently).
- Respondents confirm that the quality of online instruction has improved and now matches the quality of traditional instruction. <>
A more comprehensive set of results can be found at the ITC website.
To download a copy of the report, please visit: http://www.educause.edu/Resources/2009DistanceEducationSurveyRes/204442.
Fred Lokken is Associate Dean for Teaching Technologies at Truckee Meadows Community College and the author of the 2009 Distance Education Survey Results Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges.