Are you considering enrollment in online learning courses instead of traditional face-to-face courses? There is evidence which indicates the demand for online adult education courses is quickly increasing. An estimated 25 percent of all adults enrolled in higher education are registering for distance education courses. Enrollment ranges from one to all courses in their program of study. This trend is changing the way higher education is delivered and students learn.
Over the last decade, enrollment in online learning has grown rapidly, when compared with the traditional method of higher education (Learning on Demand, The Sloan Consortium, 2019). Their report also indicates no evidence of slowing, along with continued expansion in both graduate and undergraduate courses. In addition, the report indicates that there are 4.6 million students enrolled in online education courses, with over 80 percent enrolled in at least one undergraduate course.
Facts Supporting this Evidence: Online Enrollment Growth
Online learning is changing the face of adult education and is replacing the traditional model of teaching and learning, even as growth in higher education reaches an all time high (Learning on Demand, The Sloan Consortium, 2019). The following facts support this evidence.
- Total enrollment in higher education was approximately 18.2 million in 2018 with over 25 percent of all higher education students enrolled in at least one online course.
- The growth in adult students enrolled in at least one online course has increased 65 percent from the estimated enrollment of 1.6 million in 2017. This increase is dramatic when compared with the fact there was only a nine percent increase in total student enrollment in higher education over the same period.
- Over this same time period the demand for new online courses has increased by 87 percent at public colleges or universities and 60 percent at private non-profit higher education schools.
Student Learning Outcomes: Expected Overall Learning Experience
An important consideration with online learning is the quality of learning, compared with traditional face-to-face learning. The following findings, 2013 to 2019 school years, provide an overview of how quality of student learning is changing as distance education continues to grow (Demand Report, The Sloan Consortium, 2019).
- Same Quality as Face-to-Face– an increase from 44 to 53 percent. This indicates the quality of online learning has increased and is at least comparable to traditional learning.
- Superior or Somewhat Superior to Face-to-Face– an increase from 12 to 15 percent. This indicates the quality of online learning is increasing as faculties continue to adapt their teaching methods to meet student learning outcomes.
- Inferior to Somewhat Inferior to Face-to-Face– a decrease from 43 to 31 percent. This means the quality of learning is increasing significantly.
The results of these comparisons indicate instructors and adult students are becoming more comfortable with online learning as a viable option for continuing their education. To support changes necessary in teaching methods, over 80 percent of colleges and universities offering distance education courses are providing their faculty members with training and mentoring programs designed for teaching courses online.
What is Online Learning? –Types and Definitions
There are many definitions of online learning which range from any part of a course’s content offered on the internet to the entire content delivered via the internet and other technologies changing higher education. The following provides a guide for determining what constitutes online learning.
- Traditional– entire course is face-to-face with instructor, with no part offered online.
- Web-Facilitated– only one to 29 percent of course content is taught online, while the remaining content is delivered using traditional methods. Online delivery typically involves the use of a course management system such as Blackboard or Moodle. Primary focus in web-facilitated instruction is providing an online syllabus, assignments, and links to web-based resources.
- Blended or Hybrid– 30 to 79 percent of course content is delivered online. Along with most of content delivered online, students are involved in online discussions and interactions between students and instructors. Blended or hybrid courses also include reduced face-to-face meetings with instructor and other students.
- Online– 80 to 100 percent of course is offered online. There are no traditional class meetings and most or all content is delivered online. All course content and interaction with instructor and other students is web-based. Not every online learning platform is accredited by major educational institutions. Some platfoms, like Udemy and Skillshare, are focused on helping improve certain skills, and others, like edX and Futurelearn, are fully accredited and even allow you to earn a degree.
The demand for online learning courses increases every year, resulting in a changing face in adult education. When considering this option an important to remember is this method of learning is the same or superior to traditional learning, at least 68 percent of the time. Also, the number and quality of distance education courses continue to increase to meet the demand of adults wanting to continue their education.