Online Report Card - Tracking Online Education in the United States

Online Report Card

Tracking Online Education in the United States

Survey by I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, Babson Survey Research Group


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Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States is the thirteenth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. The survey is designed, administered and analyzed by the Babson Survey Research Group, with additional data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This study is aimed at answering fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education.

Read the complete Online Report Card report

5.8+ million students
are taking at least one distance education course

Source for enrollment data: National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS

Distance Education Enrollment

Year Over Year

Distance enrollments keep rising, even as overall enrollments drop
In 2014, students taking at least one distance education course accounted for
of all enrolled students, up from 27.1% in 2013 and 25.9% in 2012

Enrollment by Type of Course—Degree-granting Institutions

Distance Education Enrollment - Year over year bar graph

The Growth of Distance Education

Year Over Year

Public and private not-for-profit institutions keep growing their distance enrollments; for-profit institutions again show declines
Growth of Distance Education - Year over year

Change in Distance Education—Degree-granting Institutions



147,169 additional enrollments


161,242 additional enrollments



97,574 additional enrollments


98,480 additional enrollments



27,468 fewer enrollments


73,577 fewer enrollments

Enrollments by Institution Type

of all distance education students are enrolled at public institutions
Of students enrolled in distance education, 16% are in private not-for-profit, 17% are in private for-profit, and 67% are in public institutions.

Together, private for-profits and not-for-profits make up only 33% of distance enrollments, but their presence is far larger in graduate programs

of graduate
distance education students are enrolled in private institutions
of undergraduate
distance education students are enrolled in private institutions

Nearly 2/3 of academic leaders still call online education “critical to the long-term strategy of my institution”

Importance of Online Education

Academic Leaders’ Viewpoints

The percentage of institutions calling online education “critical to long-term strategy” slipped to
in 2015, after peaking at 70.8% in 2014
Only 13.7%
say it’s not critical (up from 8.6% previous year)

Online Education is Critical to the Long-term Strategy of My Institution

63.3% of institutions called online education “critical to long-term strategy” in 2015. 13.7% said it was not critical; 33% were neutral.

Source for opinion data: Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG)

Learning Outcomes in Online Education

vs. Face-to-face

After slipping in 2014, the percentage of academic leaders calling online outcomes “superior” or “somewhat superior” rose to 17% in 2015
Meanwhile, 28.6% call online outcomes “inferior” or “somewhat inferior”
In 2015, 17% said online learning outcomes were superior or somewhat superior compared with face-to-face; 28.6% said they were inferior or somewhat inferior. 54.5% said they were the same.

Promise of Blended Courses

vs. Online-only

Used for more than a decade, academic leaders believe blended courses with both online and classroom components continue to hold greater promise than fully online courses

Do blended courses “hold more promise” than fully online courses?

Fall 2003




Fall 2004




Fall 2015





Over 3x as many respondents agree that blended courses offer more promise than disagree

Learning Outcomes of Blended Courses

vs. Face-to-face

Many respondents still say “blended/hybrid” can outperform “face-to-face”

of academic leaders called blended/hybrid outcomes “superior” or “somewhat superior” in 2015

Learning Outcomes in Blended/Hybrid Courses vs. to Face-to-face

35.6% said blended courses delivered superior outcomes to face-to-face courses; 13.9% said they delivered inferior outcomes; 50.5% said outcomes were the same.

Status of MOOC Offerings

The number of academic leaders offering a MOOC has plateaued, and far fewer are planning to add them

of responding institutions now offer a MOOC…but only 2.3% more are planning to offer one

Academic Leaders Who Offer or Are Planning a MOOC

In 2015, 11.3% of respondents’ institutions offered a MOOC, and only 2.3% were planning to introduce one for the first time.

This report remains independent through the support of the following partners:

Online Learning Consortium
Babson Survey Research Group
Tyton Partners
Study Portals

Copyright © 2016 by Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson, and Quahog Research Group, LLC.

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