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New Government Data Sheds Light on Online Learners


Jun. 12, 2014 US News and World Report

Despite speculation that online education is rapidly changing the face of higher education, a new set of government data shows students might not be embracing virtual learning at the pace previously estimated.

About 5.4 million students, or one in four, took at least one distance education course during the fall of 2012, according to data released earlier this month ?by the National Center for Education Statistics.

[Explore whether online learning will lower the cost of your degree.]

While that may be a significant number of students, it’s 1.7 million fewer than reported previously in theannual Babson Survey Research Group survey,? the former benchmark of online learning. And? 74 percent of students were not enrolled in any distance education courses at all.

The government data was released in June? as a series of Web tables looking at online learners by state, region, institution and a number of other factors. The National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education, collected data from institutions eligible for Title IV financial aid.

“This gives us complete data for the first time in over a decade,” says Russell Poulin, interim co-executive director for WCET, an organization that advocates for effective technology use in higher education. “We’ll be able to go back and see what the growth has been.”

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