eLearning for Students & Faculty


Recently released U.S. Department of Education data [1] suggests that there is a strong correlation between part-time study and eLearning, and that at the undergraduate level, women are more likely to be pursuing fully online programs compared to men. In addition, the older the student, the more likely they are to be pursuing a fully online program: for example, among all undergraduate students age 30-39 in American higher education, nearly one-quarter (23%) are pursuing a fully online program, six times the rate of traditionally-aged undergraduates. Students who are working full-time are more likely to be online students. 

Indeed, the reasons students cite for choosing eLearning programs are consistent with the statistics:

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Reasons for online learning choices by students 2018 [2]

Confirming these patterns is a U.S. News & World Report [3] — which maintains a database and rankings of hundreds of online programs — reported based on its own data that the average age of an online bachelor’s degree student is 32, and that 84% of online students at the bachelor’s level are currently employed.

These characteristics of online learners are consistent at the graduate level as well, as indicated by other data sources. For example, a 2016 analysis by Gallup [4] found that individuals who had earned a graduate degree through mostly online study were more likely to be employed full-time and to have children. 

According to a National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report [5] eLearners are most motivated by factors such as convenience, work schedule, and flexible pacing. Many other surveys have found that online students are motivated to pursue postsecondary education primarily for career-related reasons — for example, transitioning to a new field, updating skills, or earning a promotion [6].

As mentioned before, Despite distance not being a limitation on eLearners’ options, an increasing number of students who study fully online enroll in an institution within their home state. In fact, 67%  of current and prospective eLearners enroll at an institution located within 50 miles of their home [6].

Finally, when it comes to younger  eLearners, academic institutions face a “technology gap” between educators and students. While this gap is challenging the proliferation of eLearning, it shows that there is still significant room for growth:

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Instructors teaching eLearning courses exhibit additional behavior that is useful to measure as an important indicator in the eLearning market. According to EducationData.org the adaptation of eLearning technologies - either in full (replacing physical classrooms altogether) or in part (as an integrated hybrid approach) is still an uphill process [2], with eLearning endorsed more widely by college administrators than faculty.

While the trend is moving upwards (In 2019, 46% of faculty members said they have taught an online course for credit compared to 39% in 2016), professional educators are just starting to catch up to the technology. 41% of instructors teaching online have used distance learning technology for less than 5 years, and less than 25% taught online for at least 10 years. That information coupled with the fact that just under 70% of instructors teaching online built their own courses in 2019, compared to 17% who utilized courses built by an instructional designer leads to the conclusion that there is significant room to grow when it comes to the effectiveness and the quality of eLearning courses.

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How faculty utilize eLearning technology in 2019 [2]

This deeper analysis reveals how eLearning is actually being used in academia. While the majority of faculty members share basic course information on an eLearning platform, much fewer use it to its full extend and integrate lecture content or identify students who may need extra help.

While eLearning technology has reached a point of maturity and allows educators to engage their students in innovative ways, the actual implementation of eLearning is in its infancy. This gap is the result of concerns which range from security in leaving children in an online world, privacy and sense of isolation to questioning effectiveness [7] in eLearning platforms aimed at K-12, and a fundamental lack of understanding of the tools, insufficient training and the perception of eLearning as a threat to a delicate status quo [8].

It is clear that the critical point in time when technology meets with opportunity has not fully occurred yet. That has changed almost overnight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Campbell, T., & Wescott, J. (2019). Profile of undergraduate students: attendance, distance and remedial education, degree program and field of study, demographics, financial aid, financial literacy, employment, and military status: 2015–16. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. Available online: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019467.pdf

  2. https://educationdata.org/online-education-statistics/

  3. Friedman, J. (2017, April 4). U.S. News data: the average online bachelor’s student. U.S. News & World Report. Available online: https://www.usnews.com/higher-education/online-education/articles/2017-04-04/us-news-data-the-average-online-bachelors-student. 

  4. Busteed, B., & Rodkin, J. (2016, October 25). Don’t judge a postgraduate
    degree by its online status. Gallup Blog. Available online: https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/196670/don-judge-postgraduate-degree-online-status.aspx

  5. Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s (2018) National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report. Available Online: http://learn.ruffalonl.com/rs/395-EOG-977/images/2018_National_Student_Satisfaction_Report_EM-031.pdf

  6. Clinefelter, D., Aslanian, C., & Magda, A. (2019). Online college students 2019: comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: Wiley edu, LLC. Available online: https://edservices.wiley.com/online-college-students-report-2019/

  7. Five concerns about the mass rush to online learning that shouldn’t be ignored, by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post. Available online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/30/five-concerns-about-mass-rush-online-learning-that-shouldnt-be-ignored/

  8. Some professors concerned about switch to online classes, by Max Garrison. Available online: https://www.thelantern.com/2020/03/some-professors-concerned-about-switch-to-online-classes/