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January 15, 2014

A new survey shows the number of college students taking at least one online course has surpassed 7.1 million. But the report conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group finds the rate of growth in online enrollment has actually slowed in recent years.

"Institutions with online offerings remain as positive as ever about online learning, but there has been a retreat among leaders at institutions that do not have any online offerings," said Jeff Seaman, co-director of the research group.

Key findings:

Over 7.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2012 term, an increase of 411,000 students over the previous year.

The online enrollment growth rate of 6.1 percent is the lowest recorded in ten years.

Thirty-three percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.

The proportion of chief academic leaders that say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy dropped from 69.1 percent to 65.9 percent.

Only 5.0 percent of higher education institutions currently offer a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), another 9.3 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.

Less than one-quarter of academic leaders believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses.

Of course, the higher education landscape is changing. The increasing cost of traditional colleges and doubts about the quality of massive open online courses have left educators wondering where colleges and universities are going. 

In her book, DIY-U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, Anya Kamenetz  argues that new social technology can lower the cost and increase the quality of education, whether teaching through social media or utilizing a "peer-to-peer" model that allows for teaching and learning without an educational institution.

"Between the access problem and the cost problem, you really have a serious situation," Kamenetz says. "There's a relevance question in higher education."

This talk from WGBH's Forum Network was originally given on May 17, 2010 at the Jimmy Carter Library.

technology and innovation, new business models, technology, online learning

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