Tracking Online Education: Farewell to the Online Report Card, Part I

Tracking Online EducationIn February of this 2016, the Online Learning Consortium published its final Online Report Card:  Tracking Online Education in the United States.  This is the last in a series of 13 annual reports that, among other things, includes attitudinal survey results from leaders in higher education regarding their attitudes toward distance education.

The authors say that the Tracking Online Education report was initiated in 2003 because there were very few sources of information available regarding the online education market at that time.  Now, thirteen years later, there are many reports and surveys tracking changes and relevant issues in this critical growth area within higher education.  And so, the sun has set on the report card as of February’s edition.

I will miss these reports!  Especially the attitudinal survey results.  Six years ago when I started researching the online education industry, I spent the first six months asking “where is the research on this industry?”.  The scorecard report series was the best source I found, with answers to the most critical questions I had about the online market.  How many students are taking online courses?  How close do students live to the university where they are enrolled in an online program?  And, importantly, how do administrators and faculty feel about online education?

Today, researchers can get volumes of data on numbers of students in distance education programs and where they live relative to their distance education program from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS Data Center.  But what’s harder to find is the attitudinal data, especially from within the university among administrators and faculty.  This continues to be an area where more research would be beneficial.

Universities, like big corporations, tend to spend a lot of time dealing with issues they face from the inside – to the detriment of understanding how the world is changing around them on the outside.  One of the best questions I’ve heard from university administrators and faculty who are considering taking a degree program online is “how do we overcome silos within our organization to create a student-centered process for delivering online programs?”

And, without the Online Report Card, how will we know when faculty attitudes finally warm up to online learning?

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