Online College Students Report for 2016 Released

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

August 19, 2016

The Learning House, Inc., has released the 2016 edition of its annual Online College Students report. This is the fifth year that the report has been published. The goal of the study is to track not just who makes up the current body of online students, but also why they are enrolled in particular online programs and schools, and what learning features they prefer. In the last few editions of the survey, such topics as competency-based learning, the use of mobile devices, and MOOCs have received a greater focus. The survey also compares trends in online education to those in higher ed. more broadly, including the continued high numbers of online students despite an overall decline in college enrollment. This year’s survey is based on responses from approximately 1,500 current and prospective online students, in addition to recent graduates.

The survey draws nine main conclusions, which are listed below.

  • A large number of students enrolled in online programs clearly prefer that format over the on-campus one, to the point that they would not enroll in a particular degree program if it were not being offered online.
  • Tuition costs continue to be a significant factor in determining which online program a student attends, especially since employer tuition reimbursements have declined and about only a third of students receive scholarships.
  • Most online students already have at least some college credits or relevant life experiences before starting their programs, and so they hope to earn their online degrees relatively quickly.
  • Virtually all online students own a mobile device, and many of them use the device to research prospective programs and then complete coursework once enrolled.
  • Prospective students typically consider only a few institutions when shopping for a program, and they submit their applications within a month or less of starting the search.
  • Related to this, prospective students expect a quick response from the programs to which they have applied, particularly when it comes to awarding financial aid and accepting transfer credits.
  • The demographics for online college students have changed significantly in just the past few years, with the typical student becoming younger, more likely to be single, and less affluent.
  • Online students are increasingly preferring schools that have a physical campus relatively close to (within 100 miles of) their homes.
  • Even though business continues to be the most popular field of study among online students, IT and computer programs have seen increasing enrollments.

To access the survey (you will need to sign up), go here. In addition to the PDF, a webinar and an infographic are available.

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