• January 26, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

      Colleges See 17 Percent Increase in Online Enrollment

    • Colleges saw a 17 percent increase in online enrollment, with more than one in four students taking at least one online course in the fall of 2008, according to the findings of an annual survey published on Tuesday by the Sloan Consortium.

    • The report

    • found a total of more than 4.6-million online students overall. That’s up from about 3.9 million the previous year.

    • "For us to grow, it’s going to be online until that money is freed up again,"

    • Bad economic times, which traditionally drive more people back to school, are having a particularly strong impact on demand for online courses. Seventy-three percent of institutions report increased demand for existing online courses, compared with 54 percent for face-to-face. Sixty-six percent report increased demand for new online courses. And students are clamoring for distance education at colleges that don’t offer it; 45 percent of institutions in that category report growing demand for new online courses and programs.

    • Fewer than one-third of chief academic officers think that their faculty members accept the "value and legitimacy" of online education, a perception that hasn’t change much in the past six years. (Another survey, released in 2009, also reflected broad faculty suspicion about the quality of online courses.)

    • More than two-thirds of institutions have a contingency plan to deal with a disruption from the H1N1 flu, and substituting online for face-to-face classes is an element in 67 percent of those plans.

    • The overwhelming majority of the 4.6-million online students — over 82 percent — are undergraduates.

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