The End of the Online Fad?

The number of students taking online courses is continuing to grow, but the pace of that growth is slowing. According to an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Substantial as the recent growth has been—it far outpaced the 2-percent growth rate in higher education over all—this year’s enrollment rise paled beside the 21-percent surge reported in last year’s Sloan [Survey of Online Learning] report.

“The slower rate of growth in the number of students taking at least one online course as compared to previous years may be the first sign that the upward rise in online enrollments is approaching a plateau,” the report speculates.

Online enrollment increased by more than 10 percent between 2009 and 2010.

So is the dash to take online courses over? Well, maybe not. Part of the reason it may look like growth is slowed is because last year’s numbers may have been an anomaly. According to the article, the rapid economic downturn in 2008 caused higher education enrollments to increase, and caused a huge increase in the number of students taking online courses.

This makes sense, since low-income people often seek out online courses, which theoretically allow them to continue working (or looking for work).

Some 31 percent of all college students now take at least one online course.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer