Enrollment and other trends

students working together on a laptop

Listed below are citations for articles concerning the following distance education trends:

  • Student demographics
  • Institutional trends
  • Technology and other trends




Online college students 2019: Comprehensive data

Clinefelter, D. L., Aslanian, C. B., & Magda, A. J. (2019). Online college students 2019: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: Wiley edu, LLC. 

Aslanian Market Research and Learning House surveyed 1,500 current, future or prospective students and recent graduates of online programs and reported their findings, including such areas as student demographics and school and program choice. This comprehensive report provides an overview of today’s online students, their learning and technology preferences, and how to reach them.

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Fong, J., & Fleming, C. (2017). Navigating generational shifts: Understanding today’s student demographics, preference, and expectations. 

Fong and Fleming surveyed over 1,000 students aged 18 to 40 about educational level, experiences, expectations, employment and other demographical data and summarized their findings by generational categories Gen Z, age 18 to 20; Millennials, age 21 to 35; and Gen X, age 36 to 40.   

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Enrollment and employees in postsecondary institutions

Ginder, S. A., Kelly-Reid, J. E., & Mann, F. B. (2018). Enrollment and employees in postsecondary institutions, fall 2017; and financial statistics and academic libraries, fiscal year 2017: First look (preliminary data) (NCES 2019-021). 

Ginder, Kelly-Reid, and Mann provided distance education enrollment information summarized by a number of student and institutional characteristics, using distance education data that was collected in the integrated postsecondary education data system (IPEDS) for fall 2017. 

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The changing profile of online students

Ortagus, J. C. (2017). From the periphery to prominence: An examination of the changing profile of online students in American higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 32, 47-57.  

Ortagus examined National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) data for 2000-2012 and reported an increase in online student headcount from about 6% in 2000 to over 32% in 2012. Those students working full time, student parents, and married students were more likely to enroll online, whereas low-income students or those from underrepresented groups were less likely to enroll online. 

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Distance education enrollment report

Allen, J. E., & Seaman, J. (2017). Distance education enrollment report 2017. Digital learning compass. 

Allen and Seaman provided national enrollment trends in distance education in this report, including overall growth patterns of distance enrollment in higher education compared to decreasing campus enrollment. Specific growth and decline patterns vary by sector (e.g., public, private for-profit, private nonprofit) and institution; for example, two large private for-profit institutions experienced a significant drop in online students, while distance student enrollment at private nonprofit institutions has increased.

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Tracking online education in the United States

Allen, J. E., & Seaman, J. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States. 

Allen and Seaman provided 2015 enrollment trends and other data in this national report.

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WCET distance education enrollment report

Poulin, R. and Straut, T. (2016).WCET distance education enrollment report 2016.

Poulin and Straut analyzed national IPEDS distance education enrollment data for fall 2014, compared it to distance education data collected for fall 2012 and fall 2013, and provided distance education enrollment summaries and trend information in this useful report.

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Tracking distance education in the United States

Seaman, J. E., Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking distance education in the United States.

Using IPEDS fall enrollment data from 2012-2016, Seaman, Allen and Seaman depicted a number of distance education enrollment trends, including international enrollment.

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Distance education state almanac

Seaman, J. E., & Seaman, J. (2017). Digital learning compass: Distance education state almanac 2017.

Using IPEDS fall enrollment data from 2012–2015, the Babson Group reported higher education and distance education enrollment trends, including state comparisons.

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Enrollment & out-of-state learning placements learning placements

Straut, T. T., & Boeke, M. (2020). NC-SARA 2019 data report: Enrollment & out-of-state learning placements.

The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) has released the 2018 distance education enrollment and out-of-state field placement data collected from over 1,900 SARA institutions in 2019. This report summarizes distance education enrollment (headcount) data by state and field placement data by CIP code and state. Field placement data reported includes learning placements for campus and distance programs.

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NMC horizon report

Adams Becker, S., Brown, M., Davis, A., DePaul, K., Diaz, V., & Pomerantz, J. (2018). NMC horizon report: 2018 higher education edition. Louisville, CO: Educause, 2018. 

The authors provided a 5-year projection of change in higher education based on technology and other innovations, categorized as key trends, developments, and challenges, including implications for policy and practice. 

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Reflections on 30 ways learning is changing

Bonk, C. J. (2016). Keynote: What is the state of e-learning? Reflections on 30 ways learning is changing. Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learning, 20(2), 6-20. 

Bonk summarized 30 technology and learning trends observed in the past decade, using student engagement, personalized learning, and widespread access as major categories.

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The changing landscape of online education

Legon, R., Garrett, R., & Fredericksen, E. E. (2019). The changing landscape of online education (CHLOE) 3: Behind the numbers. Quality Matters and Eduventures survey of chief online officers.  

Survey responses for such topics as online program management, market trends, teaching and learning technologies and quality assurance from 280 chief online officers are included in the third issue of the Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) survey.  

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Zawicki-Richter, O., & Naidu, S. (2016). Mapping research trends from 35 years of publications in Distance Education. Distance Education, 37(3). 

The authors used text mining software to evaluate 515 distance education research journal article topics and determined that there were seven emerging sweeping trends or themes over that time frame, divided into 5-year segments of time, with the most recent trend for the 2010-2014 time span consisting of massive open online courses (MOOCs), open educational resources (OER), and interactive learning.     

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