Online education is booming at community colleges, according to a survey by the Instructional Technology Council, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges. Enrollment in online courses grew by 9 percent from fall 2009 to fall 2010, outpacing the eight percent growth in community college enrollment. Sixty-eight percent of colleges can’t offer enough online courses to meet student demand.
The survey noted a small shift from all-online classes to blended learning: 65 percent of respondents offer completely online classes—down from 75 percent last year, while 21 percent offer blended/hybrid courses—up from 15 percent last year. In addition, four percent offer live interactive video courses—up one percent from last year.
Full-time faculty teach 64 percent of distance education classes, a similar ratio to past surveys that “aligns with the historic full-time/part-time faculty percentages for face-to-face classes at most community colleges,” ITC reports. Finding qualified online faculty is a problem, many colleges report.
Online administrators increasingly report the need to better prepare students for online instruction through structured orientations and computer skills assessment.
Administrators also emphasize the need to improve overall student course retention and student persistence rates. Assessment of online instruction and adequate technical support remain important.
Completion rates for online students lag behind rates for students in traditional classes, notes Inside Higher Ed. However, the gap is small: 69 percent compared to 75 percent.