Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States

Data

Online learning Higher education Usage: Current and Past

As of Fall 2016, there were 6,359,121 students taking at least one distance education course, comprising 31.6% of all higher education enrollments. This share represents the total number of students taking all of their courses at a distance, and those who are taking a combination of distance and non-distance courses. The proportion of the higher education student body taking advantage of distance education courses has increased each of the last four years. It stood at 25.9% in 2012, at 27.1% in 2013, 28.3% in 2014, and 29.7% in 2015.

The number of distance students at both the undergraduate and graduate level increased steadily each year from 2012 to 2016. Graduate and undergraduate students taking at least one distance education course increased 5.6% over the previous year, and grew by 17.2% in the four years since 2012. The 5.6% growth rate exceeds that observed between 2012 and 2013 (3.4%), 2013 and 2014 (3.3%), and between 2014 and 2015 (3.9%). The 6,359,121 distance education students in Fall 2016 includes 5,253,997 who studied at the undergraduate level, and 1,105,124 who studied at the graduate level.

Sample Size:
This report uses data collected under the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall Enrollment survey.
Online learning Higher education Usage: Current and Past

Among all students taking distance education courses, just under one-half are taking only distance courses (47.2%, or 3,003,080 out of 6,359,121). Approximately one-half of these exclusively distance students are enrolled at public institutions, with the remaining portion evenly split between non-profit and for-profit institutions. While public institutions host the majority of exclusively distance students, they make up a much smaller portion of the “at least one” distance enrollments found at other institution types. Only 35.3% of all distance students at public institutions are taking exclusively distance courses. This compares to 65.4% at private non-profit institutions and 84.9% at private for-profit institutions.

While the percentage of students at public institutions that are taking only distance courses may be low, the large size of this sector means that there are still more exclusively distance students at public institutions than at other types of schools. Just over one-half (1,546,241 out of 3,003,080, or 50.2%) of exclusively distance students are enrolled at public institutions.

Sample Size:
This report uses data collected under the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall Enrollment survey.
Citation: 

Seaman, J. E., Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States.

Publish Year: 
2018