A new report by Quality Matters and Eduventures reaffirms that online learning at both a student demand and an operational level is continuing to expand despite the end of the pandemic—and it may be devouring face-to-face learning modalities.
The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) report fielded survey responses from over 300 chief online officers (COOs) at two- and four-year institutions and found that 81% of COOs report plateauing, declining or sharply declining enrollment rates of traditional undergraduates in face-to-face programs.
Conversely, more than 90% found the same level of interest or increased interest among its traditional-aged, adult and graduate students in online learning programs. With 60% of COOs reporting that asynchronous learning is the most widely used kind of credit-bearing program, it leaves little room for hybrid learning styles, which combine elements of online and in-person learning.
One of the main ways COOs are addressing heightened student interest is by offering new online degrees that are consistent with student interest. Additionally, more than half reported offering micro-credential programs.
With the vast increase of students interested in online learning, it helps explain how universities, such as Franklin University in Ohio, that have prioritized the digital space have shouldered less of the burden of students uninterested in higher education.
What can institutions do to catch up with higher demand?
As interested as students are, COOs have responded swiftly; 39% say their strategic priorities are consistent with rising online demand, and another 36% say they are reexamining their strategic priorities in light of demand.
However, 10% reported that although their strategic priorities are consistent with demand, it’s hard for them to catch up. Some of the most common reasons why included faculty resistance, lack of proper infrastructure and concerns about quality.
Facing declining enrollment revenue, it can be difficult to address the challenge. Here are some recommendations the report provides.
- Incentivize and retrain their workforce, including the faculty, to work and teach in different modes with different expectations.
- Build an infrastructure to support a multi-modal learning environment.
- Overcome the technical, pedagogical, and logistical problems of mixed-mode instruction.
- Actively engage in quality assurance measures to ensure that new modalities can deliver on student expectations.