A Shifting Higher Education Market

New trends, learning platforms and enrollment numbers trigger boom in online education

Higher education is in the midst of a revolution. Students have direct control of their education as online learning rapidly replaces the traditional classroom learning environment. From enhanced educational access to flexible course schedules, adult learners flock to this new learning platform to earn a college education on their own terms. The statistics illustrate a growing trend away from the classroom and toward online education.

Breaking Down Online Education by the Numbers

In the early stages of distance learning, traditional colleges and universities often avoided this emerging learning platform. However, once enrollment numbers proved online education's lasting presence and profitability, traditional colleges and universities soon began to migrate many of their degree programs to this remote platform.

The numbers in distance learning show growth throughout the higher education market. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an organization designed to collect and analyze data related to education, has measured the growth of online education over the past decade. According to an NCES study, the number of students enrolled in at least one online college course increased from 1.1 million to 12.2 million between 2002 and 2006.The Ambient Institute, a research firm, projects the number of students enrolled in at least one online course will grow to 22 million in the next five years. The Ambient Institute predicts a large increase in students who choose to earn their college degree completely online, estimating that 3.55 million students will soon take all of their college courses online.

The most jarring data, however, compares online growth rates to the decline of traditional on-campus enrollment. Data collected by the Ambient Institute predicts the number of students who take all of their courses on campus will drop to 5.14 million by 2014. The Sloan Consortium suggests the growth of online education far exceeds the growth of higher education overall. Perhaps this explains why 65.5 percent of all chief academic officers surveyed in a Sloan Consortium poll reported "online education is critical to the long-term strategy" of higher education institutions. Online education has the power to reach students outside of the traditional college demographic, which opens up career opportunities to a new group of professionals.

A New Age in Higher Education

Enrollment in online degree programs at colleges and universities across the country has exploded, necessitating more resources for this remote learning platform. However, while higher education administrators value enrollment numbers because they equate to revenue, online students place more concern on the quality of education offered online. Most online courses, like those at King College, mirror their on-campus counterparts and are facilitated by experienced professionals who believe in the power of online learning. This acceptance of online learning continues to grow among academics. The Sloan Consortium reported that 67 percent of academic leaders rated online education as the same or superior to face-to-face learning - a 10 percent increase since the first report published in 2003.

New technology and resources continue to broaden and advance the scope of online learning. From enhanced communication forums to the use of blended programs to utilize both online and on-campus resources, colleges and universities increasingly integrate online learning into their course offerings to provide students with a full range of higher education choices.

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