Online Learning at Private Colleges and Universities 2016

Online Learning report cover

​In 2013, The Learning House, Inc., and the Council of Independent Colleges produced a report on how online learning was viewed by chief academic officers at member institutions. This report updates the findings and recommendations made in the original 2013 publication, pointing out key differences from the first report and, when possible, identifying trends.

It should come as no surprise that online learning has continued to expand its footprint. In 2016, more than half of the CIC member institutions that participated in the survey offer at least one fully online program (i.e., a degree or certificate at any level – associate to doctoral), while an additional one-third offer hybrid programs or online courses. The number of institutions offering no online or hybrid courses or programs of any kind is shrinking and soon will be in the single digits as a proportion of all institutions.

Not only are more institutions offering online programs, but the number of programs offered is also increasing. When comparing the results from the 2013 and 2016 assessments, it was found that the proportion of institutions that offered five or more fully online programs, a category we titled “Extensive,” increased from 15% to 25%. The proportion of institutions in the “Limited” category (those with no fully online programs but that offer hybrid or online courses) shrank from 47% to 39%, and those in the “Intermediate” category (those that offer one to four fully online programs) remained relatively unchanged from 37% in 2013 to 36% in 2016. This clearly shows a shift to offering not just online courses or one fully online program, but multiple online programs.

No matter the modality, students are starting to expect flexibility to not just be an option but the norm in their educational experience. Online or on ground, technology is pervading the classroom. Nearly every institution surveyed makes use of a learning management system (LMS) for all courses. Those that do offer online or hybrid options are increasingly open about which students can enroll in these courses, so that students do not have to choose between studying either fully online or fully on ground. The divide on campuses between online learning and on-campus learning is shrinking.

​A Joint Project of The Council of Independent Colleges and The Learning House, Inc.
By David L. Clinefelter and Andrew J. Magda
November 2016