Lokken, F. (2011) Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges: 2010 Distance Education Survey Results Washington DC: Instructional Technology Council.
This carefully conducted survey by the Instructional Technology Council of community colleges in the USA is the latest in a series of similar surveys going back to 2005. However, the sample is small (about 11% of all colleges, although representative by categories of college).
I provide a summary below of the main points, but the full report contains much more information and is well worth reading.
Growth in DE enrollments of 9% in 2009-2010
Campuses reported a nine percent increase in distance education enrollments—which is higher than the seven percent increase in overall student enrollment at all higher education institutions, and the eight percent increase at community colleges, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This is lower though than the 21% growth rate reported by Sloan-C. This is because the surveys covered different samples (Sloan covered the full range of HE institutions, not just two year colleges, and a slightly different time period.)
Blackboard products decrease as a percentage
In 2010 51% of colleges reported using a Blackboard LMS (including WebCT and Angel) down from 56% in 2009. Moodle has been stable for four years at around 10% of the colleges, and Desire2Learn has been slowing increasing each year as a percentage, but still remains below 10% of this market.
Online class enrollments capped
81% said that they capped online class enrollments, typically at 30 students or less per class.
Servers mainly outsourced
Just under 40% of colleges maintained their own server for the LMS. 13% were shared, either with other colleges or at a state level, and the rest were outsourced from third party suppliers.
Main problem: lack of adequate support staff
Finding adequate support staff continues to be a challenge to community college administrators—especially those support staff who are experienced in instructional design.
Mainly in-house development
71% of colleges develop their own content, 21% use publishers’ content and the rest license materials from a content provider. Although not explicit about OERs’ this suggests that few colleges are actually using them to any extent so far. However, a dedicated question on the use of open educational resources ought to be included in the next survey.
A move to more blended/hybrid courses
65% of colleges surveyed offer fully online courses, compared with 75% the previous year, and 21% blended/hybrid courses (defined as at least 30% online), compared with 15% the previous year.
Faculty receive 8 hours or more of training for online teaching
Just under two-thirds of colleges have mandatory training for faculty who teach online. The proportion of full-time faculty teaching online (roughly two thirds) is the same as the proportion teaching on campus.
Students split 50:50 between ‘traditional’ and ‘mature – but the older ones do best
The ITC Survey confirmed that older students are just as likely to take online classes as their younger counterparts. Older “nontraditional” students are interested in the access and flexibility online courses provide. Although this age group might not be as comfortable with technology as younger students, they are more motivated to succeed and have higher GPA and completion rates than those who just graduated from high school. (p.19)
Demand for online learning greater than supply
Over two-thirds of colleges reported demand exceeded supply. Still plenty of room for growth then in online learning.
(US) law is an ass
The Federal government has passed a law (the Higher Education Act Program Integrity Issues) that requires a college to ascertain that it is accredited in another state if it offers courses to any student in that other state. If the college is not accredited in a particular state, students in that state will not be eligible for Federal financial aid. Since there are 52 states, getting accreditation is a bureaucratic nightmare for out-of-state institutions, and students could enroll from anywhere, this places a huge bureaucratic disincentive against offering online programs to students out of state. Just another example of the terrible way the US goes about accrediting institutions, and how it affects financial aid.
It’s not just me that thinks this. See:
Lederman, D. (2011) Fixing accreditation, from the inside Inside Higher Education, May 13
Although quite specific to the USA this is a valuable study and provides a very good picture of what is happening with online distance education in two year community colleges in the USA.