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Online Education More Popular Than Ever



By Catherine Groux
Posted January 09, 2013 11:00 AM

More students are taking online classes than ever before.
More students are taking online classes than ever before.
In the era of technology, schools across the country are giving their students more opportunities to learn through online classes and degree programs. Given the convenience and frequently lower cost of such programs, a growing number of students are flocking to their computers to earn associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees over the Internet.

More Students Taking Online Classes

A new report by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board indicates that in the fall 2011 semester, more than 6.7 million students were taking at least one online course. With a 9.3% increase since fall 2010, the report shows that the percentage of students taking online classes rose to an all-time high of 32% last fall.

As more students take online courses, an increasing number of colleges are beginning to see web-based classes as a crucial part of higher education. In 2012, only 13.5% of schools said they had no online offerings, and the report indicates that this figure will probably continue to drop. Last fall, about 69% of chief academic leaders said online learning is an important part of their long-term strategy. Only a decade ago, less than half of all higher education institutions said the same.

At the same time, the report shows that academic professionals now have a more positive perception of online learning and student outcomes in web-based courses. In 2003, only 57% of academic leaders said the learning outcomes in online courses are the same as or better than those in face-to-face classes. Last fall, this figure increased to 77%. 

The Future of MOOCs

As online education continues to experience growth, many academics feel the industry will be dramatically changed by the rise of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Today, only 2.6% of higher education institutions offer these free online classes, while 9.4% said they are in the planning stages of creating them.

While MOOCs have been making headlines in recent years with their introduction at prestigious schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the report shows that many colleges remain skeptical of their place in academia. About 55% of institutions say they are undecided about MOOCs, while almost one-third say they have no plans to launch MOOCs in the future.

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