The State of Online STEM Education in the U.S.: Upcoming National Survey, Results of the STEM Summit, and New Opportunities


 Lynette O’Keefe, Director of Research & Innovation, OLC;  Devon Cancilla, Cancilla Digital & Online Education; Kate Lee-McCarthy, Director of Grants & Finance, OLC

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OLC is pleased to partner with Every Learner Everywhere, Carolina Distance Learning, DigitalEd, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Biointeractive, along with a number of experts and institutions in the development of a comprehensive national survey on the state of online STEM education.  With our partners and led by Jeff Seaman of the Babson Research Group, we are exploring the online STEM landscape through the lens of faculty, institutional leadership, researchers, and policymakers. 

A key piece of this work is engagement from the online STEM community. We kicked off a community discussion and survey development at the STEM Summit at OLC Accelerate last month.  A diverse group of online STEM professionals, including faculty, advisors, leaders, researchers, and corporate partners representing a variety of institutional types and STEM disciplines attended the session and contributed to a robust discussion about the priorities of, difficulties surrounding, and current perceptions of online STEM education. Key conversations centered around the need to understand the effectiveness of online STEM courses compared to traditional face-to-face delivery and the barriers to acceptance and adoption.  Another key element was related to equitable access and the potential for online STEM programs to better serve underrepresented populations. These discussions not only created new connections, but contributed to the development of the survey itself.  

We started the summit with the assumption that there were seven likely themes that would prioritize and inform the direction of the survey. As a working group, and with an intent to narrow our scope, the audience engaged in analyzing and providing recommendations for priority themes in order of importance. As a result of this process four themes emerged as the primary areas that participants felt would impact online STEM education the most: Effectiveness, Opportunities, Challenges, and Equity & Accessibility.  

Within the four primary areas of interest, the survey will also review the following topics: institutional adoption of online STEM, acceptance of online STEM, identification of innovations within the field, the effectiveness of online and digital labs, differences in fully online and blended delivery, accreditation, and the adoption and completion rates of online STEM by diverse student populations.

The survey is currently in development, and we will be conducting a test survey with a small group of STEM professionals to evaluate potential questions for the national survey. The final survey will be deployed nationally in the February-March timeframe with the final results scheduled for release in July. We would like the opinions of both STEM and non-STEM professionals, therefore, if you are interested in being part of this process, send an email to   

Online STEM education is an area of increasing interest, including administration, design, implementation, and pedagogy, and there is a need for more community, discussion, and research.  In addition to upcoming blog posts as the project moves forward, keep an eye out – we’ll be adding opportunities to connect with OLC and other members interested in online STEM on our website and through OLC Today this Spring!


Lynette O'Keefe

Dr. Lynette O’Keefe is the Director, Research & Innovation at OLC and provides leadership for the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership and OLC publications. Prior, she was the Director, Learning Enhancement for the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research at the University of North Texas. Lynette’s experience spans the educational pipeline from K-12 to public universities and community colleges, and in addition to her digital learning and leadership roles, she has served in a number of positions in Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, and Educational Partnerships. 


Devon Cancilla Chief Knowledge Officer

Devon A. Cancilla leads Cancilla Digital & Online Education. Prior to this role, he served as the Chief Knowledge Officer at OLC, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation at UMKC, Dean and then Associate Provost for Learning at American Sentinel University. Devon was also an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Director of Scientific Technical Services (SciTech) at Western Washington University (WWU) where he led the development of the Integrated Laboratory Network (ILN), an online laboratory initiative funded by the National Science Foundation. Devon has received both the Sloan-C (now OLC) Outstanding Achievement Award for Online Education and an Effective Practice Award for his research into the development and use of online laboratories. He attended the University of Iowa, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and UCLA, where he received his doctorate in Environmental Health Science. Devon’s current research interests relate to the use of analytics in the design and development of online courses.


Kate Lee-McCarthy, Director of Grants & Finance, OLC



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