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College Enrollment in Online Courses Continues to Rise, Study Shows

By guest blogger Victoria O'Dea

A total of 6.7 million college students—almost one-third of the students in higher education—have enrolled in at least one online course, a new survey shows.

This is the tenth annual survey the Babson Survey Research Group has made on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education.

The survey, which is free with registration, says that close to 70 percent of higher education institutions report that online education is critical to their long-term strategy, but many academic leaders are concerned about finding sustainable forms of online education.

K-12 educators face a similar challenge. According to "Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning", a report written by the Evergreen Education Group, the number of students enrolling in one-semester-long online courses increased by 16 percent last year, and that only accounts for online learning programs offered by state-run virtual schools. The report shows that there is a growing demand for online learning, and states are working to develop new laws and policies to provide a range of online learning options for K-12 students.

For higher education, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are a popular new form of online education, according to the survey, but currently just 2.6 percent of higher education institutions have a MOOC and only another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages. Though academic leaders are undecided on the merits of MOOCs, the survey states that most higher education officials agree that MOOCs offer a valuable way for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.

Virtual education innovations on college campuses, such as MOOCs, may well have an influence on online learning models in K-12 schools, which are evolving quickly. Digital Directions has an ongoing series of special reports that highlights recent developments in e-learning. The most recent report evaluated effective models of blended learning—a type of online learning that blends virtual education with face-to-face instruction.

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