3 online education trends from 2018

Expert Insight

3 online education trends from 2018

The start of a new year gives many institutions a chance to set new online and hybrid education goals. Before doing so, it’s helpful to review some of the stand-out trends from 2018 to help guide your strategy. EAB has identified three trends in the online and hybrid market that higher education leaders should remember in 2019.

1. Multi-modality increases on college and universities campuses

Since IPEDS began tracking online education* in 2012 there has been a 2% increase in overall enrollment but a 16% increase in online enrollment at four-year institutions. However, what is particularly interesting is the sharp increase in the number of students who are simultaneously enrolled in online and traditional face-to-face courses. As shown in the graph below, since 2012 there has been a 39% increase in the number of students who are taking some online courses. This change points to a shift in student preferences for increasingly flexible learning opportunities and demonstrates the spread of technology-facilitated courses.

Enrollment continues to grow

2. Online enrollment growth counters face-to-face declines

Online and hybrid education growth has occurred at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, masking significant face-to-face enrollment declines. Between 2012 and 2016, graduate enrollment in exclusively online programs has increased by approximately 28% while undergraduate online enrollment has increased by only 9.5%. This doesn’t reflect overall enrollment trends. Overall graduate enrollment has increased by only 2% while undergraduate enrollment has decreased by 5%.

Online enrollment outpaces

In the case of undergraduate enrollment, this difference comes from a decline in the number of traditional college-going students accompanied by growth in non-traditional undergraduates with competing priorities who prefer degree programs that allow for more flexible schedules. Similarly, in the case of graduate degree programs, it is possible that as students increasingly pursue graduate degrees in a post-recession economy they become unwilling to leave their jobs to gain a postbaccalaureate credential and preferred working and studying simultaneously.

3. Institutional online offerings follow enrollment trend

These enrollment trends are reflected in the programs and courses offered by institutions. Across all four-year, degree-granting institutions, the number of colleges and universities that offer online educational opportunities at both the graduate and undergraduate level continues to grow. This is coupled with a sharp decline in the number of institutions without any online offerings. This is due to pressures on institutions to launch revenue-generating online programs and a growing need to accommodate changing student preferences for technology-facilitated courses and greater flexibility.

Institutional online offerings

Learn more about online and hybrid education

To learn more about segment-specific trends, common myths about the financial and enrollment benefits of online and hybrid learning, and how institutions can best serve three critical online student markets, read EAB’s Online and Hybrid Education Strategy White Papers.

* IPEDS tracks distance education, which is defined “as education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.” For the sake of simplicity, this piece uses online education to refer to IPEDS data about distance education courses and programs.

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