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.


  1. It is disappointing that staff support has remained an issue for online education. With outsourced servers, it would be more difficult than ever to develop a steady tech support for instructors and learners. The increasing blended courses will force the adjustment of teaching loads and an institutional accepted proportion of online vs. f2f meetings. This would affect all assessments including teacher evaluation.

  2. Tony

    This is a fantastic summary. But I will read whole report as well.

    1.- 9 % rate of increase for enrollment to online courses at CC. Is that right ? If so it is very small.
    Sloan claims (although that is for whole HE 24-25 % increase almost every year Also you say there is more
    demand than supply this 9 % increase cannot be correct .

    2.- I am glad that Blackboard is decreasing. But let Moodle to inceare its quality and content .
    BlaCKBOARD ıS A HıNDER FOR THE EDUCATİON ıN THE usa. How my American friends do not see that.
    They were monopole for years. I am glad people opened up their eyes now .

    3.- Who decided 30 students per ONLINE class is a limit.
    Even face to face teachers manage 100-500 students in one class.( Big amphitheatars )
    Please comment . What are the qualifiacations of instructors .?

    4.- Servers outsourced.
    Good. Everybody should be smart enough to do so .

    5.- Course development :

    That is where my American friends are lacking knowledge.
    The virtue of ONLINE is ” it is for millions ”
    CC course developments can be done by a consortium of CCs
    ( Not by outside vendors who do not know what the education is, commercial people are killing the education
    in USA )
    and same course can be shared by all CCs.
    Then cost per CC and students is almost nill. WHY DON” T YOU DO THAT ?

    You do not need 100 ” introduction to economics ” course for 100 CC . It is just ignorance.
    1-5 online course for ” introduction to economics ” is enough for all CC in the USA.
    . That should be done by a
    ” Course development team of all community colleges + world experts in the subject area ”

    Even if you spend $ 1,000,000 per course you can amortise that by thousands of CC students in very short
    time . Remember even OBAMA said 5-6 months ago at Carnegie mellon ” SHARE ”

    Carnegie Mellon is sharing its online course with Pennsylvania colleges. Why other community colleges are
    not as smart as Pennsylvania colleges. I am sorry to say that. When one cannot see this very fact on onlıne
    system I just become furious. Why people do not see what they have just in front of them .

    Just share my website link http://www.globalonlineuniversitiesconsortium.org
    It just links to academicearth.org made by smartest 2 gentlements from YALE . Thanks billion to them. Just
    support them more.

    I am planning to share all CC contents from USA to Turkish colleges at fair prices for 1,000,000 students.

    6.- Support staff
    It is unbelieveable .
    a) You outsource content development ( If you claim you do not have staff then outsource it )
    b) You outsourced servers

    You need only instructor. Then you say an instructor needs 8 hours of trainning.
    All confelickting statesments.

    You say 2/3 faculty teaches full time online. Is that right.
    Does it mean that they teach only 30 students for the whole year due to cap . What a waste .

    What are the qualifications for online teachers. Is it only MS or MA .
    How much they are paid. As a full time professors.

    Support staff can be from all over the world and at lower prices from France , from England.

    7.- Demand for online is more than supply

    This is the greatest news I heard in the last 15 years.

    Finally Americans understood that ” online is at least as good as f2f and even better ”
    Thanks GOD:
    Supply is very very easy. Just SHARE. Do not try to create your own content.

    Just share http://www.academicearth.org or
    my http://www.globalonlineuniversitiesconsortium.org all free.

    8.- This is not my words I just quote
    (US) Law is an ass.

    If it is so as explained here I agree.
    That is the reason there is a problem of education in USA.
    It is not my duty but I call the attention of all policy makers.
    I am sure they are not aware of what they have done .

    Dear Tony
    You are the greates ONLINE guru of the world .
    I will comment more after reading the whole report .
    mgozaydin@hotmail.com from Turkey.

    • Hi, Muvaffak

      Thank you very much for your interesting comments.

      I’m hoping some of my readers will respond to some of your points, but just a couple of comments from me, where I may not have written clearly enough to avoid misunderstanding.

      1. It is important to remember that there are sampling problems with every survey. This survey had a low response rate and is likely to have been biased towards institutions with a higher level of activity in online learning (If you are not doing online learning, why would you reply?). This applies to all surveys (including Sloan-C) about online learning. This is why the Ontario study is so important, because it had a 100% response rate from all public sector institutions in the province, making it the most reliable study of online developments that I have seen. Their figures for online enrollments are lower than those from Sloan-C, but that may also be a reflection of differences between Canada and the USA (although I suspect it is more to do with the Ontario figures being more accurate). Basically we need to take all these data with a pinch of salt, but they are certainly better than no data.

      2. The appropriate size of an online class depends on your view of what education is. If you see it as merely a transfer of information then large classes are not only possible but desirable. However, if you see learning as a transactional process, where the learner develops skills and competencies, such as critical or creative thinking, and this requires interaction with someone more ‘expert’ in the subject domain, then smaller classes are necessary. The issue here is how you define and measure ‘quality’ in education. It should be noted that mass content development was a feature of many of the open universities in developing countries such as Bangladesh, India and Indonesia. Where the ‘transactional’ or ‘teaching’ component was ignored, drop-out rates were massive (90% plus).

      3. Sharing of content: I agree that for many introductory courses, the content could be ‘standardized’ and shared between many users. However, the transactional or ‘teaching’ component around skills development and measurement in the ‘soft’ disciplines such as arts, social sciences and business probably can’t. although I accept that we could be handling the transactional part more cost-effectively than we do, through better use of social, peer-to-peer learning online.

      I’d be interested in other people’s response to the comments made by Muvaffak

  3. Dear Tony :

    You classify online in 2 models
    1.- Transfer of information
    2.- Transactional process Learner develops skills and competencies ( creative thinking )

    I am glad to know such classification .
    1.- To develop online courses for class 1 is much easier than the second.
    2.- I say ; Class two requires more time and money to develop an effective online course .
    It is not impossible .

    Therefore both kinds can be shared by all colleges provided development had been done rightly.
    In Ontario Open Learn Project with 22 colleges consortium with 110 online courses to be shared is the greatest project I have ever seen. I hope they would open themselves to whole world.

    I agree with you open universities are not the good examples for online teaching . I do not like even the Open University of UK . I have studied that in great detail for 2 years and decided it is not worthed to follow .
    But look at Drexel ONLINE,Penn State ONLINE . They are great .But they charge too much. Something should be done..

    Why don’t we do a 50 CCs consortium to develop online courses for 2000 CCs.
    We would solve all the education problem of USA.
    I will write to Obama and Duncan as well . The sample shows us that our model is right one .


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here