Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Expectations About Higher Ed Online Courses -- Take a Step Back?

"After two years of hype about massive open online courses, academic leaders' expectations of all of online education have taken a small but remarkable step back."

That is how Inside Higher Ed begins the story about Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States 2013 a new report by the Babson Survey Research Group.

I'm not surprised. I've never been a fan of MOOCs and have always expressed concern about their quality. And, the fall out from MOOCs shouldn't impact the rest of the field, but we still have the problem of seeing online courses as a singleton. But: all online courses are not alike, and reading the report on the survey, its clear that the overall concern about MOOCs is painting all online with a bad image.

But that lead missed other important points in the report.

This survey also reveals that in 2013:
  • 7.1 million of higher education students are taking at least one online course.
  • The 6.1 % growth rate represents over 400,000 additional students taking at least one online course.
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those as in face-to-face instruction, grew from 57% in 2003 to 74% in 2013.
  • The number of students taking at least one online course continued to grow at a rate far in excess of overall enrollments, but the rate was the lowest in a decade.
That last point is significant! Growth in online is slowing. And in the report it's clear that many of the smaller institutions that don't yet have online courses aren't starting online programs. But, looking at the local environment, online graduate programs seem to be growing both in number and in overall enrollments. 

Market saturation?  I don't think so.  Caution on the part of some institutions more likely, especially with the hype and hoop-la about how MOOCs were going to change higher education.  

MOOCs are another story like Second Life.  Remember back when Second Life came on the scene? Colleges bought land in Second Life to create online campuses and deliver courses there.  Hear much about Second Life these days?  Let's see if MOOCs are still part of the discussion in a couple of years.  


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