Saturday, November 20, 2010

The 2010 Sloan online teaching survey

I recently summarized the 2009 Sloan online teaching survey. Now lets take a quick look at the 2010 survey.

Among other things, the survey found that online instruction is growning fast, federal regulation aimed at curbing financial aid abuse at for profit schools would impact other schools, but to a lesser degree, the market is competitive, and most academic leaders think online instruction is as good as face-to-face. Here are a few sample results:

  • Sixty-three percent of all reporting institutions said that online learning was a critical part of their institution’s long term strategy, a small increase from fifty-nine percent in 2009.
  • Over 5.6 million students (nearly thirty percent) were taking at least one online course during the fall 2009 term -- an increase of nearly one million students over the number reported the previous year.
  • The twenty-one percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the less than two percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • Over three-quarters of academic leaders at public institutions report that online is as good as or better than face-to-face instruction (compared to only 55.4% of private nonprofits and 67.0% of for-profits).
  • Nearly one-half the institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs while three-quarters report that it has increased demand for online courses and programs.
  • The economic impact on institutional budgets has been mixed; forty-seven percent have seen their budgets decrease, but twenty-seven percent have experienced an increase.
  • For-profit institutions report a potential negative impact from proposed Federal rules on financial aid on their enrollments at more than twice the rate of other types of institutions (33.9% compared to 12.2% for public institutions and 10.1% for private nonprofit institutions).
  • A majority of institutions continue to report that there is increasing competition for online students.
  • Public institutions report more pressure from the for-profit sector than do the private nonprofit institutions.
  • Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most growing, but with a sizable portion seeing steady enrollments.
  • Virtually all recent growth in online enrollments has come from the growth of existing offerings, not from institutions new to online starting new programs.
It's noteworthy that public school leaders are most likely to consider online as good as or better than face-to-face instruction and they are also most likely to offer online courses. This raises the causality question -- are they more likely to offer online classes because they feel they are effective or vice versa? Regardless, will the growing proportion of online courses come to further differentiate public and private education?

It also makes one wonder how to judge the effectivness of a course. Is it scores on an objective exam, student satisfaction levels on a survey, the quality of interaction with fellow students, experience of the values and enthusiasm of a teacher, etc.? As stated in our review of the previous Sloan survey, hyrbid courses, which can offer some of the advantages of both modes of instruction, seem to be the best solution for some schools and some classes.