Allen, I. and Seaman, J. (2010) Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States Babson Park MA: Babson College Survey Research Group

The Sloan Consortium continues its invaluable annual survey of online learning in the USA in 2009, showing that enrolments in online learning grew 17% last year, compared with overall enrolment growth of 1.2%. This is the sixth consecutive year that the survey has identified double figure growth for online learning.

4.6 million, or one in four posts-secondary students, now take at least one online course in the USA.

Other significant results from the report:

While the number of programs and courses online continue to grow, the acceptance of this learning modality by faculty has been relatively constant since first measured in 2002.
• Less than one-third of chief academic officers believe that their faculty accept the value
and legitimacy of online education.  This percent has changed little over the last six years.
• The proportion of chief academic officers that report their faculty accept online education
varies widely by type of school but reaches a majority in none.

It is interesting to note that in public institutions and not-for-profit institutions, 60% of faculty are neutral or do not accept the value and legitimacy of online education, according to the chief academic officers responding to the survey (a more direct survey of faculty would be useful).

Note that the Sloan definition of online learning is very broad and includes web supplemented classroom teaching as well as blended/hybrid learning. More significant is the trend over time of constantly increasing enrolments in all forms of online learning.

This is a report well worth reading in full. Despite its value, there are some aspects of the survey’s methodology that  that I don’t like. It is a great pity that there are no official institutional reporting mechanisms for what must be one of the most significant innovations in post-secondary education. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to the Sloan Foundation for keeping a consistent track of what is happening with online education in the USA.


  1. Hi Tony
    Any thoughts on what might be contributing factors for the apparent disparity in the uptake of supporting online learning by academics in the face of what appears to be an indisputable growing demand for the same thing?

    • Hi, Jim

      I’m pretty sure that this is due to lack of training in teaching methods and theory. Most instructors know only one model of teaching in higher education and that is the model they experienced as students. Without some background in pedagogy (for lack of a better word) it’s difficult to construct convincing alternative scenarios for teaching. What was noticeable in the Sloan study was that once instructors had experienced online teaching, their negative views dropped dramatically.

      However, I’d like to hear what other readers of this blog have to say on this issue.

      Thanks for an interesting question, Jim

  2. I agree. We spend a small fortune on edtech solutions that people like me support in universities but we seem to spend very little effort on changing practice amongst the majority of academic staff. There are probably three things that I would observe on the spur of the moment:

    1. There remains a significant lack of awareness of inovative online teaching and learning methods amongst many academic staff.

    2. There are few incentives, if any, in many universities to adopt innovative delivery methods either at the organisational unit level or the individual academic level.

    3. There is also a tendency amongst some groups in universities to blame IT for lack of uptake rather than change academic practice. The argument goes that we can’t change push for large scale delivery change until the IT systems are perfect. Something that, of course, will never happen. I hope this will change as we de-institutionalise key edtech systems in future.

    There are probably lots of other factors as well but those will do for now.


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