Growing by Degrees

Growing by Degrees

Online Education in the United States, 2005 Southern Edition

I. Elaine Allen and  Jeff Seaman

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Copyright ©2006 by Sloan-C™

All rights reserved. Published 2006

Printed in the United States of America

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Growing by Degrees

Online Education in the United States, 2005

Southern Edition

I. Elaine Allen, Ph.D.

Kevern R. Joyce Term Chair

Associate Professor of Statistics & Entrepreneurship Co-Director, Babson Survey Research Group Babson College

Wellesley, MA

Jeff Seaman, Ph.D.

CIO and Survey Director, The Sloan Consortium Co-Director, Babson Survey Research Group Olin and Babson Colleges

Needham and Wellesley, MA

March 2006

This report is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

This report was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group.  The study is published by the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C).

In order to ensure objectivity, Sloan-C does not have editorial control over the survey design, data capture, data analysis, or presentation of the findings. The authors wish to thank the Southern Regional Education Board  (SREB) for their assistance in reaching their members and for encouraging them to participate. The authors also wish to thank Eduventures, Inc., who generously provided their data on online enrollments at publicly-traded, for-profit institutions. This information was merged with the data collected for this study to improve the accuracy of our enrollment estimates. Finally, the authors wish to thank the Sloan-C Publications Director for her wonderful efforts in improving the report, and Sloan-C itself for their publication and distribution efforts.

The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) has its administrative home at Olin and Babson Colleges.

Contents

Welcome  ........................................................................................................................................ 1

Executive Summary ..........................................................................................................................2

Have the Course and Program Offerings in Online Education Entered the Mainstream?  ................. 2

Who is Teaching Online? ............................................................................................................ 3

Is Online Education Becoming Part of Long-term Strategy for Most Schools? ................................ 3

Have Online Enrollments Continued Their Rapid Growth? ............................................................ 4

What are Chief Academic Officer’s opinions about Online Education? ........................................... 4

What is Online Learning? ................................................................................................................. 5

Detailed Survey Findings ................................................................................................................. 6

Online Course and Program Offerings are Mainstream ................................................................ 6

Online Course Offerings Becoming Pervasive .............................................................................. 6

Online Program Offerings Show Wide Adoption .......................................................................... 7

Most Discipline Areas Well Represented Online .......................................................................... 9

Core Faculty Most Likely to Teach Online .................................................................................. 10

Online Enrollments Show Steady Growth ................................................................................... 11

Online Education is Part of Long-term Strategy for Most Schools ............................................... 12

Teaching Online Requires More Time and Effort  ........................................................................ 13

Students Require More Discipline to Complete Online Courses .................................................. 13

Faculty Acceptance of Online Education Still in Doubt ............................................................... 14

Evaluating Online Courses No More Difficult than Face-to-face .................................................... 15

Electronic Campus Results ....................................................................................................... 16

Summary of the Findings ................................................................................................................ 17

Survey Support and Methodology .................................................................................................. 18

Appendix ...................................................................................................................................... 19

Welcome

Welcome to the first annual Southern Edition Report on online learning. Earlier this year, the Southern Regional Education Board  (SREB) entered into a data collection partnership with the Sloan Consortium. As many of you know, the Sloan Consortium conducts an annual survey on the state of online learning in higher education in the U.S. Three reports have been released: “Sizing the Opportunity: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003,” “Entering the Mainstream: Online Education in United States Higher Education, 2003 and 2004” and “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005.”  The surveys have quickly become the most current, comprehensive, and widely quoted source of information on the numbers and trends in online learning. You can download  the reports from the Sloan Consortium web site at http://www.sloan-c.org/.

This report is a special version of the latest report, “Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005.” The Sloan Consortium agreed to produce this Southern Edition for SREB and Electronic Campus colleges and universities. This report is also available for free download to the SREB community. I believe that you will find the report of real interest and an invaluable planning aid, providing you with the ability to compare your own responses to those of other colleges and universities in the SREB region, as well as to the national sample for the main Sloan Consortium report.

On behalf of SREB, our member states and Electronic Campus colleges and universities, I want to thank the Sloan Consortium and Drs. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman for undertaking this special effort. Further, the continuing support of this vital research by Dr. A. Frank Mayadas, Program Officer, of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is greatly appreciated.

Dr. Bruce N. Chaloux

Director

Electronic Campus

Southern Regional Education Board

The Southern Regional Education Board, the nation's first interstate compact for education, was created in

1948 by Southern states. SREB helps government and education leaders work cooperatively to advance education and, in doing so, to improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB’s 16 member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Executive Summary

Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005 – Southern Edition is based on data collected for the third annual national report on the state of online education in U.S. Higher Education.  This year’s study was aimed at answering some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education. Supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and based on responses from over 400 southern colleges and universities, this special report examines the nature and extent of online learning among the 16 southern states that make up the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Readers are directed to the national study, Growing by Degrees: Online Education in the United States, 2005, for comparison data.

Online learning is thriving in the southern states. The patterns of growth and acceptance of online education among the 16 southern states in this report are very similar to that observed for the national sample, with one clear difference: online learning has made greater inroads

in the southern states than in the nation as a whole. Penetration rates are consistently higher and attitudes towards online education are consistently more positive. The details:

Have the course and program offerings in online education entered the mainstream?

Background:  Last years national study, Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004 suggested that online education was penetrating the institutions of higher education in both size and breadth of programs and courses.

Is online education now part of the mainstream of higher education?

The evidence: The answer to this question appears to clearly be “Yes:” schools are offering a large number of online courses, and there is great diversity in the courses and programs being offered:

• Sixty-two percent of southern schools offering graduate face-to-face courses also offer graduate courses online.

• Sixty-eight percent of southern schools offering undergraduate face-to-face courses also offer undergraduate courses online.

• Among all southern schools offering face-to-face Master’s degree programs, 47%

also offer Master’s programs online.

• Among all southern schools offering face-to-face Business degree programs, 48%

also offer online Business programs.

Who is teaching online?

Background:  When institutions move to embrace online education, do they do so at the expense of their current core faculty?  If a greater proportion of online courses are being taught by adjunct faculty, hired on a per-course basis, it may mean fewer opportunities for core faculty members, and, some would argue, lower course quality.  Some have claimed that the move to online education will cost jobs for core faculty.  Does the evidence support this concern?

The evidence: Staffing for online courses does not come at the expense of core faculty. Institutions use about the same mixture of core and adjunct faculty to staff their online courses as they do for their face-to-face courses. Instead of more adjunct faculty teaching online courses, the opposite is found; overall, there is a slightly greater use of core faculty for teaching online than for face-to-face.

• Seventy-two percent of southern higher education institutions report that they are using primarily core faculty to teach their online courses, the same percentage that report they are using primarily core faculty to teach their face-to-face courses.

• Seventy-nine percent of southern Public colleges report that their online courses are taught by core faculty, as opposed to only 69% for their face-to-face courses.

Is online education becoming part of long-term strategy for most schools?

Background:  Approximately one-half of all institutions rated online education as important for their long-term strategy in our two previous studies.  This belief was not consistent across all types of institutions, however.  Small schools and private, nonprofit institutions were the least likely to support this view.  Have opinions changed over time?  Do more institutions now agree that online education is an important long-term strategy, and has this changed for specific subgroups of institutions?

The evidence: The evidence from higher education’s academic leaders suggests that there is a strong trend upwards in considering online education as part of a school’s long-term strategy. While there is some diversity in response to this question, there is growth among all types of schools:

• The overall percent of southern schools identifying online education as a critical long-term strategy grew from 52% in 2003 to 64% in 2005.

• The largest increases were seen in Associates degree institutions where 78% now agree that it is part of their institution’s long-term strategy, up from 62% in 2003.

• The smallest schools, private nonprofit institutions and Baccalaureate colleges remain the least likely to agree that online education is part of their long-term strategy.

Have online enrollments continued their rapid growth?

Background:  Last years national study reported a 22.9% overall increase in the number of students taking one or more online courses, growing from 1.60 to 1.98 million students.  Schools were optimistic about future growth as well, with 74.8% reporting that they expected their online enrollments to increase.  Has the rapid growth in online enrollments continued for another year?

The evidence: Growth has continued at a healthy rate, but not as rapidly as last year. The national increase in the overall number of online learners was the same this year as last (an increase of around 360,000 each year) for an overall enrollment growth rate of 18.2%.  This growth rate greatly exceeds the overall growth rate in the higher education student body.

• Overall national online enrollment increased from 1.98 million in 2003 to 2.35 million in 2004.

• The online enrollment growth rate is over ten times that projected by the National

Center for Education Statistics for the general postsecondary student population.

• The southern states represent 29% of online enrollments, with 672,000 students taking at least one online course.

What are Chief Academic Officer’s opinions about online education?

Background:  Our previous studies have shown that Chief Academic Officers believe, in general, that online courses are of equal quality to face-to-face and that students are as satisfied with online as with face-to-face courses.  They have also expressed reservations about their faculty’s acceptance of online education.  Have Chief Academic Officers changed in their beliefs about faculty acceptance of online education?

The evidence: There is some good news for online education, but the opinions of Chief Academic Officers also raise a number of challenges. On the positive side, they believe it is no harder to evaluate online courses than those delivered face-to-face. More challenging, however, is that Academic leaders believe that online courses require more effort for faculty and more discipline by students, and many of them continue to believe that their faculty have not accepted the value of online education.

• Chief Academic Officers believe, in general, that it takes more effort to teach online.

• A large majority of respondents (72%) believe that it takes more discipline for a student to succeed in an online course.

• Although online education continues to penetrate into all types of institutions, only a relatively stable minority of Chief Academic Officers (30% in 2003 compared with

35% in 2005) continue to believe that their faculty fully accept the value and legitimacy of online education.

• Eighty-two percent of respondents believe that it is no more difficult to evaluate the quality of an online course than one delivered face-to-face.

What is Online Learning?

The focus of this report is online education. In order to be consistent with previous work, we have applied the same definitions used in our prior reports. These definitions were presented to the respondents at the beginning of the survey, and then repeated in the body of individual questions where appropriate.

The primary focus of this report, online courses, are defined as having at least 80% of the course content delivered online. The combination of two of the classifications listed below (traditional and web facilitated) is used as the definition of “face-to-face” instruction (in other words, a course with zero to 29% of the content delivered online). The remaining alternative, blended courses (sometimes called hybrid courses) are defined as having between 30% and 80% of the course content delivered online. While the survey asked respondents for information on all types of courses, results of the analysis of blended

options will be presented in a future publication; the current report is devoted to online only.

While there is a great deal of diversity among course delivery methods used by individual instructors, the following is presented to illustrate the prototypical course classifications used in this study.

Proportion of Content Delivered Online

Type of Course                             Typical Description

 

0%

 

 

Traditional

 

Course with no online technology used —

content is delivered in writing or orally.

 

 

 

1 to 29%

 

 

 

 

Web Facilitated

 

Course which uses web-based technology to facilitate what is essentially a face-to-face course. Uses a course management system (CMS) or web pages to post the syllabus and assignments, for example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 to 79%

 

 

 

 

Blended/Hybrid

 

Course that blends online and face-to-face delivery. Substantial proportion of the content is delivered online, typically uses online discussions, and typically has some face-to- face meetings.

 

 

 

 

80+%

 

 

Online

 

A course where most or all of the content is delivered online. Typically have no

face-to-face meetings.

Schools may offer online learning in a variety of ways. The survey asked respondents to characterize their face-to-face, blended, and online learning by the level of the course (undergraduate, graduate, continuing education, etc.). Likewise, respondents were asked to characterize their face-to-face, blended, and online program offerings for certificate, associate, bachelors, masters, doctoral, and professional programs.

Detailed Survey Findings

Online Course and Program Offerings are Mainstream

The number of students who study online has been increasing at a rate far in excess of the rate of growth in the overall higher education student population. Two previous reports in this series, Sizing the Opportunity: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003 and Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004, demonstrated both the continued growth

in the numbers of online students and the wide variety of institutions that provide online offerings. Less well known, however, is how closely an institution’s online offerings match those of their face-to-face offerings. Have institutions selected a small number of areas to experiment with online, while leaving the bulk of their offerings as face-to-face only? Is online concentrated only among non-degree electives and not part of the core curriculum?

In answering these questions, it is important to understand that higher education institutions vary in the types of courses, programs, and disciplines that they offer. Of interest to those studying the nature and extent of online education is the extent to which institutions that provide a particular type of offering also provide the same type of offering in an online setting. The following analysis examines the penetration rate for online offerings by course type, program type, and program discipline. In other words, what proportion of institutions that offer a particular type of face-to-face course or program also provide the same type of offering online?

Online Course Offerings becoming Pervasive

Those skeptical of the growth in online enrollment numbers have posited that what we are observing may be large numbers of students in non-core programs and courses, with little impact on the institution’s core offerings. It could be argued that online education can not be a formidable force in U.S. higher education if the only areas where it is having a major impact are at the fringes—for non-credit courses or non-degree programs. Both the national and southern state evidence from this year’s study refute this view; online education has made strong inroads in the core offerings for most types of institutions. Institutions in the sixteen SREB states have, in general, more favorable opinions about online learning than those of the national sample.

Nationally, 89%t of all institutions offer face-to-face undergraduate-level courses, and 55% of all institutions offer online undergraduate-level courses. This means that 62.5% of all national institutions that offer undergraduate face-to-face courses also offer the same level course online; in other words, online has a 62.5% national penetration rate for undergraduate-level courses. The undergraduate penetration rate for southern states is even more impressive at 69%. Far fewer institutions provide graduate-level courses (only

26% nationally), but the percentage of these that also have an online offering is actually slightly higher (65%) than the penetration rate for undergraduate courses, with a southern undergraduate penetration rate of 63%. This analysis does not address the number of courses that institutions offer in face-to-face and online modes, only if they offer any or not.

These penetration rates are more dramatic among Doctoral institutions and mid-size large schools. Among southern Doctoral institutions with graduate and undergraduate face-to- face courses, 76% also offer graduate courses online and 74% offer undergraduate courses online. Among large schools (over 15,000 enrollment) offering graduate and

undergraduate face-to-face courses, 88% are also offering undergraduate courses online and 96% are offering graduate courses online.

Online Course Penetration – Southern States – Fall 2004

 

Doctoral/ Research

 

Masters

 

Baccalaureate

 

 

Associates

 

 

Specialized

 

Undergraduate Level

 

 

73.8%

 

72.0%

 

36.4%

 

 

84.6%

 

 

53.9%

 

Graduate Level

 

 

76.2%

 

68.9%

 

30.2%

 

 

100.0%

 

 

62.1%

 

Continuing Education

 

 

64.4%

 

51.0%

 

17.0%

 

 

74.6%

 

 

67.2%

The 100% penetration rate for graduate-level courses among Associates institutions bears mentioning. Most institutions classified as Associates are two-year schools, but a few

offer graduate-level courses. The 100% figure indicates that there are very small but equal numbers of Associates institutions with face-to-face and online graduate-level offerings.

Survey responses also refute the notion that “non-core” Continuing Education courses account for the bulk of the growth in online learning. While the southern penetration rate for Continuing Education courses is relatively high (60%), the rates for undergraduate and graduate instruction are even higher. The conclusion is the same for the southern region as for the nation; growth in online course offerings is occurring at all levels—undergraduate and graduate as well as Continuing Education.

Online Program Offerings Show Wide Adoption

Online Program Penetration – Southern States – Fall 2004

Certificate Program     36.9% Associate Program                       45.3% Bachelors Program                 31.9% Masters Program     46.6% Doctoral Program                   16.6% Professional Program 12.6%

A similar pattern of broad penetration is found when we examine online programs. Online certificate, professional and traditional degree programs go hand in hand with face-to-face programs. Forty-seven percent of schools offering face-to-face Master’s programs also offer Master’s programs online, the highest penetration rate for any program type. The figure is even more impressive among specific subgroups of institutions. The penetration rate for Master’s programs rises to 50% in Public

institutions. Doctoral institutions also have a high penetration rate

(64%) for Master’s programs.

Programs at the Associate level have the next highest overall penetration rate, with 45% of schools with face-to-face Associate’s programs also offering at least one online version. The Associates and Doctoral/Research institutions represent the bulk of these offerings, but over one-quarter of all other school types with Associate’s programs also offer online alternatives.

Certificate programs show the widest range of penetration by type of institution. Doctoral/Research institutions lead all others, with a penetration rate of 58%. Very few Baccalaureate institutions offer face-to-face Certificate programs (only 25%) and only a small fraction of these (8%) provide an online Certificate offering.

Programs at the Bachelor’s level are offered in face-to-face format by over 95% of all southern Doctoral/Research, Master’s, and Baccalaureate institutions. Of these, however, it is only the Doctoral/Research and Master’s institutions that provide online program offerings in any great numbers (with penetration rates of 45% for Doctoral and 36% for Masters). Only 18% of Baccalaureate institutions that offer face-to-face Baccalaureate programs also offer at least one online version of a program. This result is no surprise given the generally negative opinion that these institutions have towards online education across a number of issues (reported elsewhere in this and previous reports).

With respect to school size, the largest schools (15000+ students) are most likely to offer both online and face-to-face Master’s programs (88%). This pattern is repeated for most other program offerings as well; the smallest institutions have the lowest penetration rates across almost all program categories. The higher penetration rates among the largest schools may stem from a number of factors. Public institutions, which lead in online offerings, tend to be large, but there also may be economy of scale and availability of resources issues at work as well. The largest institutions have the most resources, and therefore, potentially, the greatest ability to move to new types of offerings.

Online Program Penetration – Southern States– Fall 2004

Doctoral/ Research

Masters     Baccalaureate   Associates   Specialized

Certificate Program       58.0%        46.3%             7.7%              35.4%           36.6%

Associate Program       72.7%        34.8%           25.7%             51.9%            32.0%

Bachelors Program       45.2%        36.2%            17.6%              23.1%            40.8%

Masters Program       63.8%         46.3%           26.6%             50.0%           46.5%

Doctoral Program       20.7%         19.4%              0.0%               0.0%             5.6%

Professional Program        20.9%         11.5%              0.0%               0.0%             9.8%

Doctoral and Professional programs have notably lower overall penetration rates than other program types. It is the Doctoral/Research institutions that are the primary providers of the face-to-face Doctoral and Professional programs. All other institution types have low rates of face-to-face offerings for these programs; very few offer any online alternatives either. Since it is Doctoral/Research institutions which have the highest penetration rates for other programs (e.g., Master’s, Certificate), this may indicate that Doctoral/Research institutions are more selective in what types of programs are offered online.

Most Discipline Areas Well Represented Online

In addition to asking if institutions offer courses and programs at particular levels, it is important to understand what discipline areas these courses and programs cover.

Information on program penetration by discipline areas

Online Penetration by Program Discipline – Fall 2003 – Southern States

Business    48.2%

Computer and Information       41.8%

Sciences

Education     26.1%

was collected in our 2004 survey and is presented here. Among disciplines being offered, business program offerings have the highest penetration rate with 48% of colleges offering face-to-face business programs also offering online business programs. Business programs are followed closely by liberal arts and sciences, general studies, humanities (43%), computer and information sciences (42%), and the catch-all category of all other programs (40%).

Health Professions and Related

Sciences

Liberal Arts and Sciences,

36.4%

The penetration rate for business programs is relatively low among Private, nonprofit institutions (21%), but is at nearly two-thirds for (63%) Public institutions. The large

General Studies, Humanities        43.0%

Psychology                                 28.3%

Social Sciences and History       29.4%

All Other Programs     39.5%

public-private difference is found for every discipline – Public institutions have far higher penetration rates than those for Private, nonprofit institutions. The Public penetration rate is triple that of the Private, nonprofit institutions for every discipline with the single exception of Health Professions and Related Sciences, where it is merely double.

Online Penetration by Program Discipline – Fall 2003

Public           Private, nonprofit

Private, for-profit

Business      62.5%           21.0%                  **

Computer and Information

Sciences

54.6%           18.1%                  **

Education        38.5%           12.0%                  **

Health Professions and Related Sciences

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, Humanities

41.1%            21.8%                  **

59.9%           17.5%                  **

Psychology         41.0%            11.2%                   **

Social Sciences and History         44.4%            9.2%                  **

Results withheld to protect the privacy of reporting institutions.

Core Faculty Most Likely to Teach Online

Who Teaches Online and Face-to-face Courses – Southern States – Fall 2004

         Face-to-      Online face

Core       71.7%         71.6%

Split      21.8%        17.8%

     Adjunct       6.5%        10.6%

When institutions move to embrace online education, do they do so at the expense of their current core faculty?  If a greater proportion of online courses are taught by adjunct faculty, hired on a per-course basis, it may mean fewer opportunities for core faculty members, and, some would argue, lower course quality. Some have claimed that the move to online education will cost jobs for core faculty. The evidence, however, does not support these assertions.

Survey respondents were asked to identify the most appropriate classification of their use of core or adjunct faculty to teach online

and face-to-face courses; if it was “Exclusively” one type or the other, “Mostly,” or a “Roughly equal mix of core and adjunct faculty.”

Survey results indicate that core faculty is used to teach online courses about as frequently as they are used to teach face-to-face courses (72% online and 72% face-to-face).  This shows that the

often cited prediction that online courses will rely much more heavily on adjunct faculty has not materialized. Not addressed in this analysis are the numbers of faculty involved at particular schools. An

institution beginning to offer online courses may start with core faculty doing the development and initial teaching. Once the number of courses, and therefore the number of faculty needed, grow, the institution may reach out for additional adjunct faculty to handle the load.

When examined in more detail, some other differences emerge. Public colleges have more core faculty teaching online with 79% reporting that online courses are primarily taught by core faculty as compared to 69% for face-to-face courses. The disparity is in the other direction for Private, nonprofit institutions, where 58% report core faculty are teaching online courses and 80% are teaching face-to-face courses.

Who Teaches Online and Face-to-face Courses – Southern States – Fall 2004

Doctoral/ Research

Masters          Baccalaureate         Associates         Specialized

 

 

Face-

 

 

Face-

 

 

 

Face-

 

 

Face-

 

 

 

 

Face-

 

to-

Online

to-

 

Online

to-

Online

to-

 

Online

 

to-

Online