Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004

Here is a very important report:Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004

This study takes a look at online learning in American Universities. Here’s a few facts the study brings to bare.

Will online enrollments continue their rapid growth?

  • Over 1.9 million students were studying online in the fall of 2003.
  • Schools expect the number of online students to grow to over 2.6 million by the fall of 2004.
  • Schools expect online enrollment growth to accelerate — the expected average growth rate for online students for 2004 is 24.8%, up from 19.8% in 2003.
  • Overall, schools were pretty accurate in predicting enrollment growth — last year’s predicted online enrollment for 2003 was 1,920,734; this year’s number from the survey is 1,971,397.

Are students as satisfied with online courses as they are with face-to-face instruction?

  • 40.7% of schools offering online courses agree that “students are at least as satisfied” with their online courses, 56.2% are neutral and only 3.1% disagree.


What about the quality of online offerings, do schools continue to believe that it measures up?

  • A majority of academic leaders believe that online learning quality is already equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction.
  • Three quarters of academic leaders at public colleges and universities believe that online learning quality is equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction.
  • Three quarters of all academic leaders believe that online learning quality will be equal to or superior to face-to-face instruction in three years.

In light of these facts, recall my earlier prediction:

I predict that in 5 years, students all over the world will learn Calculus with little input from from instructors (but a lot of input from other students!). They will use sophisticated on-line laboratories and on-line testing, and on-line support. The technology is already here, but we still don’t know how to use it properly.

It looks like it might happen even faster than 5 years! But my prediction is bold enough as it is, so I’ll keep it in its current form.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “Entering the Mainstream: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2003 and 2004”

  1. I think that students have been learning calculus with little input from teachers for a long time. Teaching the course, I’ve often felt that there was no way that the vast majority of my students could possibly be getting much out of my lessons – it was only through working on the problems that they learned the material. Perhaps this is just end-of-the-term frustration speaking, but I often find myself wondering if we should just do away with the 3 lecture hours per week and present our students with a good set of notes and a well-staffed tutorial centre. An online course approximates that reasonably well, so perhaps its time has come.

    Either that or universities just aren’t “doing calculus” right.

    Naaaaahhhh.

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