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  1. Tony Bates
    January 20, 2014 - 5:47 pm

    Phil Hill wrote today questioning the Sloan/Babson data, in particular challenging the figure of 7.1 million students taking at least one online course in the USA (see:
    This is because the IPEDS survey carried out by the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education, gives a figure of 5.5 million for the same period. This is likely to be a highly reliable number.
    The problem is that the two surveys use different methods and different definitions, but I have always suspected that the Sloan/Babson data was on the high side, because it depends heavily on responses, in some cases just estimates, from Chief Academic Officers (rather than Registrars, or the Institutional Research Office), although I am sure most CAOs will consult on this. However, institutions are more likely to collect reliable data on online learning now that IPEDS is requesting it.
    Where the Sloan/Babson reports are really useful is on identifying trends over time rather than absolute figures, and what most CAOs think about online learning, which in itself is useful.
    This does illustrate though why in Canada we need a consistent, reliable and trusted methodology for collecting this data on a national basis. It would be good if Statistics Canada could take this on – but very unlikely in current circumstances.

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