Putting Online Learning Statistics in Perspective
January 19th, 2011

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion in the never-ending traditional vs. online education debate – but who should you listen to? When it comes to forming opinions about what’s right for you, start with proven facts, like these, courtesy of the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide:

>> Approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009.
Even more impressive, that number is up almost one million students from fall 2008. You read right – in the span of one year, almost a million more students signed up for online learning.

>> The 2008-9 online enrollment jump represents the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online.
It’s no surprise that online education is on the rise, but these kinds of numbers are not typical. This is the biggest numerical increase in the eight-year history of the Sloan Survey, and the largest proportional increase – 21 percent – since 2005.

>> The 21 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2 percent growth in the overall higher education student population. Online enrollments have grown at more than nine times the rate of general higher education enrollment since 2002.
When you look at statistics, it’s important to have a basis of comparison – if a 21 percent growth rate were average, it wouldn’t be worth noting. But the fact that online education enrollment has been outpacing traditional education enrollment by such a large margin says there’s something to this whole online learning thing.

>> Almost a third of all college students in the country take at least one course online.
This stat also puts online enrollment in perspective. Think of it this way: in a group of 21 college students, about 7 will be enrolled in at least one online course. Take a straw poll and see if it’s true on your campus.

>> Nearly one-half of institutions say that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs. At the same time, three-quarters of institutions report that the recession has increased demand for online courses and programs.
When your job prospects are slim, education is a great way to increase your opportunities for employment and promotion. It can even help you launch a new career. Here again, online schools are outpacing traditional schools in education demand. Which would you choose to increase your marketability?

>> Two-thirds of academic administrators agree that online education is the same as or better than face-to-face instruction.
Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. But the academic experts are worth listening to on this one. Acceptance of online education is continuing its upward trend, indicating increasing quality and confidence in the online delivery model. And the claim that online education can be even better than traditional education is worth checking out yourself, don’t you think?

-Robyn Tellefsen

Robyn Tellefsen

Robyn Tellefsen is an NYC-based freelance writer and editor who specializes in career education. In addition to writing for The CollegeBound Network and Employment Network's suite of sites, she provides proofreading and copyediting services for various publishing companies. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Wheaton College (IL).

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