Babson Study: Over 7.1 Million Higher Ed Students Learning Online

Press Release: January 15, 2014

Online enrollment growth, while still substantial, is slowing.

(Wellesley, MA) – The 2013 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group reveals the number of higher education students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 7.1 million. The 6.1 percent growth rate, although the lowest for a decade, still represents over 400,000 additional students taking at least one online course.

“While the rate of growth in online enrollments has moderated over the past several years, it still greatly exceeds the growth in overall higher education enrollments,” said study co-author I. Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “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,” added co-author Jeff Seaman.

“Core to growing our nation’s economy is the need to provide relevant educational opportunities that will help students meet their career goals,” said Todd Hitchcock, SVP, Pearson Online Learning Services. “Institutions are identifying new degree offerings and delivering these programs online due to the fact that they can be delivered more affordably and with greater flexibility. Our goal is to equip our partners with the services and solutions they need to help more students graduate and become workforce ready.”

“The 2013 survey findings reinforce the first-hand experience of our members, who continue to demonstrate that online learning has become a fundamental component of today’s higher education environment,” said Joel Hartman, Sloan-C Board President and Vice Provost and CIO, of the University of Central Florida. “Sloan-C is privileged to continue our 11-year partnership with the Babson Survey Research Group, and with Pearson, in bringing this important research to our members and the higher education community. These surveys have become recognized as a primary resource for tracking and understanding the growth of online learning and its impact on higher education.”

Key report findings include:
  • 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 for this report series.
  • Thirty-three percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face grew from 57.2 in 2003 to 77.0 percent last year, but fell back to 74.1 percent this year.
  • 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.
  • Ninety percent of academic leaders believe that it is likely or very likely that a majority of all higher education students will be taking at least one online course in five year’s time.
  • 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.

The eleventh annual survey, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. Based on responses from over 2,800 academic leaders, the complete survey report, “Grade Change” is available at http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/grade-change-2013.

Previously underwritten by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the report has been able to remain independent through the generous support of Pearson and the Sloan Consortium.

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has global reach and market-leading businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing (NYSE: PSO). Pearson helps people and institutions break through to improved outcomes by providing innovative print and digital education materials, including personalized learning products such as MyLab and Mastering, education services including custom publishing, content-independent platforms including the EQUELLA digital repository, and the Pearson LearningStudio online learning platform and OpenClass online learning environment.

The Sloan Consortium is an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of education. Sloan-C is a non-profit, member-sustained organization.

The Babson Survey Research Group in the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurial Research at Babson College conducts regional, national, and international research projects, including survey design, sampling methodology, data integrity, statistical analyses and reporting.