IN FOCUS: THE YEAR IN REVIEW 2014

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1 10th Anniversary Edition TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 1 April 2015

2 IN FOCUS: THE YEAR IN REVIEW 2014 In 2004, the Instructional Technology Council s (ITC) board of directors created a survey instrument for a report that would annually document the distance education trends, issues and challenges that many distance learning administrators face regardless of their institution s geographic location, budget, number of students, level of staff support, and position as an independent entity or participant within a district or statewide system. The goal of the survey and its accompanying report is to: Provide annual longitudinal data that is specifically relevant to distance education practitioners. Use the data to determine significant national trends in distance education. Use the data so community colleges can more effectively plan and strategize for the future. Focus on obtaining results from community colleges that lead efforts to adopt and expand online course offerings, degree programs, and best practices to help online student succeed. WHAT HAVE DISTANCE EDUCATORS ACCOMPLISHED? Online education represents a significant paradigm shift in the history of higher education. In just ten years, distance education has: Greatly improved student access to higher education opportunities. Provided a transformational link between learning and technology. Opened unprecedented avenues of competition to, and rethinking of, the traditional ivory tower higher education model. Offered students online courses that are equal in quality to face-to-face courses. Enrolled more than 5.5 million students in the United States in 2013 in educational programs they would probably have missed otherwise. Helped prompt the federal government to declare education can, and should, be free for community college students who study and work hard. Helped begin to break down the state-by-state silo structure of higher education. Prompted educators to explore new methods for teaching, learning and communicating. Furthered the evolution and revolution of mobile devices as a learning platform. For those who work in higher education, this rapid transformation in teaching and learning is unprecedented. Educators are used to glacial-speed decision-making, led by a generation of leaders who have never directly experienced the ever-changing distance education environment. SLOWING GROWTH IN DISTANCE EDUCATION STUDENT ENROLLMENT Many educators did not anticipate the dramatic growth of distance education at community colleges. The remarkable expansion coincides with, and results from, a sharp reduction in the costs of technology, that allowed educational institutions and students to purchase the technology hardware and software they 2 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

3 needed to learn at a distance. Educators also capitalized on new and developing support technologies that became prevalent at the right time. Our phones became smart and the Internet empowered students to access information anywhere at anytime. Distance education allowed colleges to make higher education more accessible especially to working adults, caregivers, students with disabilities, and others who have schedules and responsibilities that are incompatible with their attendance in traditional, face-to-face, classroom instruction. Online instruction offers flexibility and convenience and has opened new doors of opportunities to the students community colleges serve. Throughout the past ten years, the ITC survey has confirmed that student enrollment in online courses continues to grow at a higher rate than overall student enrollment at colleges and universities. Although, most online programs no longer see the double-digit growth they experienced only five years ago, the survey data continues to confirm the popularity of online learning. ITC s survey participants reported a 4.68 percent increase in student enrollment in their online programs from fall 2013 to fall 2014 (down from 5.2 percent in 2013). Meanwhile, overall student enrollment at community colleges declined by 3.5 percent from fall 2013 to fall 2014 according to the American Association of Community Colleges. 1 ITC survey respondents reported that their colleges experienced an overall 2.73 percent decline in total student enrollment during this period. The slowdown is likely due to a well-established, historic trend that student enrollment at colleges and universities increases during an economic downturn, and declines as the economy improves and students return to work. PERCENTAGE INCREASE IN DISTANCE EDUCATION ENROLLMENT REPORTED BY ITC SURVEY PARTICIPANTS percent percent percent percent percent IPEDS DISTANCE EDUCATION DATA For the first time, in fall 2012 the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) reported on the number of students who take distance education courses at postsecondary institutions in the United States. IPEDS data offers the most comprehensive data in higher education because every college and university in the United States must complete its annual survey in order to offer their students federally-funded financial aid. 1 Community College Fast Facts, January 2015, American Association of Community Colleges. AboutCC/Documents/FS_2015_2.pdf TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 3

4 Unfortunately, a group of educators who investigated the 2012 and 2013 data collection found that a number of higher education institutions undercounted and/or over counted the number of distance education students at their college and universities. Those who completed the data sheets were confused as to whether they should include several distance learning student populations in their data submission: those taking credit versus non-credit courses, out-of-state students, and those taking accelerated courses or courses with nontraditional start times and/or completion dates. There was also a basic misunderstanding over the definition for distance education. The authors hope this confusion will be corrected in 2014 and that the IPEDS survey instrument will include more specific definitions and directions so the data are entered consistently and completely, and distance educators researchers will obtain more accurate information. 2 Although the authors are not sure how complete the 2013 data are, IPEDS reported that in 2013, 2,659,203 undergraduate and graduate students took distance education courses exclusively at degree-granting institutions (up from 2,638,653 in 2012). In 2013, 2,862,991 graduate and undergraduate students took some distance education courses at degree-granting institutions (up from 2,806,043 in 2012). The grand total is 5,522,194 (up from 5,444,696 in 2012). Although their report focuses primarily on four-year institutions, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) has commissioned the Babson Survey Research Group to record the number of distance learning students for the past 12 years. Although they also reported discrepancies in their figures this year, from 2013 to 2014 Babson reported a 3.7 percent increase in the number of distance education students, the lowest recorded during the 12 years of their report series. They stated that public and private nonprofit institutions recorded distance enrollment growth, but these were offset by a decrease among for-profit institutions. Throughout the past ten years, the Babson/OLC results have correlated with the ITC survey results, lending credibility to both figures. 3 HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED ONLINE Reviewing the past ten years of ITC survey data can help identify issues that may be widespread, chronic, and need resolution. Three issues stand out: 1. First-time student preparedness. As the online learning environment has matured, administrators have significantly improved faculty training, designed a more engaging online learning environment, expanded the selection of online courses and degree programs available, and developed appropriate best practices and minimum expectations. Nevertheless, finding effective ways to prepare first-time online students for the nuances of online learning continues to be a challenge. Administrators see the need to orient new students to the operational features of the learning management system (LMS), confirm that students have the requisite computer skills, study habits and personal characteristics to succeed online. Although mandatory faculty and staff training sounds logical, the devil can be in the details. 2 Fall 2013 IPEDS Data: New Profile of US Higher Ed Online Education by Phill Hill. Jan. 5, 2015, eliterate. com/fall2013-ipeds-profile-us-higher-ed-online/ 3 Babson Study: Distance Education Enrollment Growth Continues, but at Slowest Rate Ever. Feb. 5, 2015, Babson Survey Research Group and Online Learning Consortium. 4 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

5 2. Lack of computer and Internet access. The digital divide continues to be a real problem for most, if not all, community colleges, which are traditionally open access institutions and serve under-represented student populations, and the impoverished. Although the lack of adequate Internet access is an obvious challenge in rural communities, broadband inadequacies also exist in urban settings. For many community college and K-12 students, access to a computer and/or mobile device is a serious barrier for learning in a world where technology prowess can be the key to obtaining a better job and economic success. 3. Persistent lower student retention rates for online courses. Distance education administrators must pay attention to this issue as colleges increasingly hold them accountable for students who do not attend and/or complete their online courses. Online administrators are frustrated when they have little, and sometimes no, control over the elements that can help them improve online student retention rates. Many lack the authority to recruit, hire or evaluate faculty, have little say over online courses and degree program offerings, and have inadequate staffing and budget authority. Faculty and online student support services can resist implementing best practice models and ignore minimum expectations. Nationally, student retention in online courses tends to be eight percentage points lower than that of faceto-face instruction. Online students need to be self-disciplined to succeed. Many underestimate how much time online coursework requires. Others fall behind or drop out for the same reasons they enrolled in online courses in the first place they have other responsibilities and life challenges, such as work and/or family, and are too busy to prepare for, or complete, their online coursework. Distance education administrators have found that providing students with a clear, detailed orientation can clarify what is expected so students do not rush in and set themselves up for failure. Third party solutions abound and have evolved with online learning as it has grown. Student tracking data and learning analytics programs can warn administrators when students falter, so they can intervene appropriately to help a student continue in his or her course of study. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 5

6 STATE AUTHORIZATION FOR INSTITUTIONS OFFERING DISTANCE EDUCATION TO OUT-OF-STATE STUDENTS A national effort is underway to encourage every state legislature to approve a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), whereby states will agree to recognize the distance education efforts from institutions located in other SARA-member states, without imposing additional fees or quality controls, as long as they are in good standing with their regional accreditation agency guidelines. 4 The four regional compacts the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, WICHE, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, MHEC, the New England Board of Higher Education, NEBHE, and the Southern Regional Education Board, SREB will ensure state regulators in their region have the proper processes in place to monitor compliance. Since the regional compacts will play this deciding role, SARA will give some regional compacts a new regulatory authority, which could be problematic for some state legislators. With 20 states on board as of April 2015, the SARA organizers are well on their way toward meeting their goal of recruiting 25 states as members by July In addition to having their state on board, institutions must pay an annual fee of $2,000 to $6,000 to be part of SARA. RECOMMENDATIONS ITC recommends colleges continue to obtain authorization from each state in which they teach students, have virtual faculty, and/or any trigger for establishing physical presence under the current state authorization regulations pending SARA achieving a critical mass of state membership. Here is a process which members of the ITC board of directors recommends colleges follow: 1. Create a process to identify out-of-state students enrolled at the institution. One might limit the search to students who: Have a permanent out-of-state address Pay out-of-state tuition Are only enrolled in fully online courses, and Have been allocated financial aid 2. Create an application process to obtain state authorization from those states in which students reside 3. Contact the states in which those out-of-state students reside to obtain state authorization. 4. As it gets closer to the start of a term: monitor student enrollments; identity students that have registered for classes from state(s) that you do not have an agreement with, and contact the student with the advice drop the class and to seek out an institution that does have an agreement. 4 The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) is leading this effort. Visit for more information. 6 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

7 To help institutions comply with state regulations, the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) has created several invaluable directories, which they update regularly. 5 These directories include state-by-state agency and contact information. They also include data on the types of educational providers they authorize, exemptions, physical presence policy triggers, application processes, associated fees, interstate reciprocity agreements, contact information for consumer/student protection and student complaints, legislative or regulatory changes, and enforcement measures. REAUTHORIZATION OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT OF 1965 In 2015 Congress will likely reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), as it does every six to eight years. Congress last reauthorized the HEA in Since he became chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in 2014, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is charged with working with his committee to craft the legislation, steer it through the Senate, and obtain President Obama s signature. Alexander has said that his top priority is to weed out burdensome regulations and requirements in the law, which govern federal financial aid. 6 He has expressed general support for for-profit institutions and the online programs they offer, reducing federal oversight of higher education in favor of state control, and has lent support for competency-based learning models. Although, distance educators always need to remain vigilant, they should have little to fear from the Act s revision if Senator Alexander has his way. Educators need to be mindful that Senator Alexander proposes overhauling work the Department of Education has championed for the past six years to rein in rogue institutions and champion proposed gainful employment regulations, an action that will likely be distasteful to President Obama. A telling sign of Senator Alexander s penchant for removing higher education regulations and oversight was a report he unveiled in February 2015 that proposes to 1. Repeal accreditation-related regulations and statute that are unrelated to direct institutional quality and improvement. 2. Permit flexibility and nuance in accreditation reviews. 3. Encourage gradation, distinction and clarity in accreditation status and reviews. And 4. Delink accreditation from institutional eligibility for federal student aid. 7 The next year should be interesting for higher education proponents. 5 Visit Web site or the directory at for more information. 6 A Plan for Deregulating Higher Ed, by Michael Stratford. Feb. 13, 2015, Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/ news/2015/02/13/senate-sponsored-report-calls-simplified-and-fewer-regulations-colleges 7 Higher Education Accreditation Concepts and Proposals. March 2015, Senate Committee on Heath Education, Labor and Pensions. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 7

8 ITC SURVEY HISTORY Members of the Instructional Technology Council (ITC) board of directors created ITC s annual distance education survey in fall 2004 to respond to the growing need for national data related to distance learning program creation and development, and to track key issues for faculty and students. In the past, distance education practitioners have used data from the U.S. Department of Education and an annual series of reports by the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C) to track distance learning student enrollment, but the landscape lacked a reliable source of longitudinal data gathered on a regular basis and the data was skewed toward enrollment at four-year institutions. The ITC survey fills that gap, particularly given the relative newness of online instruction. Core survey questions have remained consistent; however, ITC added questions on the use of assisted, hybrid and live interactive video courses in 2008, questions pertaining to student authentication in 2009, questions about state authorization in 2011, and questions about the use of open educational resources in ITC has conducted this distance education survey in late-october and November since fall During even-numbered years between 2006 and 2012, ITC distributed the survey to members of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). However, the authors ended this practice in 2012 due to uneven response rates from AACC members. Currently, only ITC members participate in the survey. divided the questions into four categories: general information, administrative, faculty, and students. ITC ed the survey to member representatives at its 350 member institutions. ITC received 136 completed responses (40 percent of ITC members). The completed surveys were reviewed to ensure a representative sample of institutions had participated. The review confirmed an acceptable response rate, and an acceptable distribution of completed surveys, from a range of institution sizes (Carnegie) and locations (ITC membership regions). For all percentages included in this report, no answer responses are not listed consequently, data will not always equal 100 percent. Typically, the distance education administrator completed the survey on behalf of his or her institution. A longitudinal review established a strong continuity amongst completers 70 percent of the annual submissions have come from the same campuses during the ten years of the survey. DISTRIBUTION OF RESULTS The ITC will mail a printed version of the survey to ITC members and to the community college presidents of all AACC-member institutions. ITC will also post an electronic version of the results on its Web site at SURVEY METHOD Distance education practitioners developed and reviewed the survey questions to ensure the data and information generated are of value to distance learning administrators and faculty. The authors 8 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

9 2014 SURVEY RESULTS GENERAL INFORMATION Institutions Surveyed More than 93 percent of respondents identified themselves as associate s colleges (80.51 percent) or associate s dominant colleges (12.71 percent). 8 Distance Education Enrollment Growth ITC asked respondents to report comparative enrollment trends in distance education from fall 2013 to fall 2014, the most recent full year of available data. Campuses reported a 4.68 percent increase in distance education enrollments a number that is slightly lower than the 5.2 percent increase reported from fall 2012 to fall For the same period, campuses reported an overall enrollment decline of 2.73 percent (an improvement from their reporting of an overall enrollment decline of 3.27 percent for the previous year. Distance education enrollments continue to be the basis for any enrollment growth and compensate for the continued decline in traditional enrollments ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: Distance education enrollments have accounted for almost all enrollment growth at community colleges for the past ten years. ITC asked respondents to identify factors that contributed to the increase in distance education enrollments. As the chart below confirms, impacts related to the economic downturn remain as the national economy begins to recover: Table 1. Reasons Cited for Increased elearning Enrollments Reason Economic downturn 37 percent 22 percent 18 percent 40 percent** 32 percent** Typical distance education growth 39 percent 28 percent 28 percent 36 percent** 34 percent** New enrollment initiative 12 percent 14 percent 9 percent 17 percent** 12 percent** Do not know 5 percent 7 percent 11 percent 18 percent** 22 percent** Other 7 percent 13 percent 21 percent 17 percent** 10 percent** Direct Report Line In 2014, 80 percent of respondents indicated they report to an academic administrator, which included: 58 percent vice president of academic affairs 14 percent academic dean eight percent (academic) associate provost, vice-chancellor, provost, chancellor, chief academic officer, associate vice president, associate vice-chancellor 8 For information on institutional classifications, visit ** Note: In the 2013 and 2014 survey, respondents checked more than one response to this question, whereas in previous years respondents only chose one response. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 9

10 Four percent of respondents indicated they report to their institution s president, six percent to a nonacademic dean, three percent to their vice president for technology, three percent to their IT administrator, and one percent to their library administrator ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: During the past ten years, the direct report line for key distance learning personnel has shifted significantly from non-academic to academic administrators at the college. This has allowed distance learning staff to better support their faculty and obtain faculty buy-in. The new reporting structure aligns with a change many campuses have experienced with regard to distance education a shift from the technical aspects of using technology for instruction, to meeting the pedagogical and academic support needs for delivering instruction to students online. CHALLENGES FOR ADMINISTRATORS Challenges for Administrators The college lacks a strategic direction for its online program. The emphasis remains on providing services for on-campus students and building new buildings. Student enrollment had decreased at our campus, mainly due to the lower graduation rates in our area high schools. Our college does not promote online learning as it should and offers it as an option if scheduling issues arise. Our college administration does not understand all of the advantages and opportunities distance learning provides to the college and its faculty. We do not have a consistent method for evaluating online courses or online faculty ITC Survey Respondents 10 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

11 ADMINISTRATIVE QUESTIONS Challenges Each year, ITC has asked distance education administrators to rank the challenges they face with regard to administering online courses. From 2012 to 2014, the top challenge distance education administrators have faced has been concern about providing adequate student services for distance education students. From 2004 to 2011, their number-one challenge was a lack of proper support staff to help them train faculty and provide technical assistance to faculty and students. Other trends of interest include: In 2014, the respondents ranked the need to adequately assess distance education courses and programs as their fourth greatest challenge. ITC s survey respondents have ranked course quality assessment as one of their top four challenges since the ITC survey began listing it as an option in Respondents continue to confirm that receiving the budgetary funding they need to run their distance education program remains a top-ranked challenge. Receiving adequate support staff to provide training and technical assistance re-emerged as a significant concern in 2013 and was ranked second in the 2014 list of challenges. On most campuses, the distance education administrator plays no role in the process colleges use to select faculty, choose or evaluate courses and their content, or schedule course offerings. Not surprisingly, for the past two years, the survey respondents have ranked having inadequate administrative authority as a significant challenge. Since the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the ITC survey has included the challenges administrators face related to increased federal and state government engagement in distance education. In 2014, respondents ranked state authorization as their fifth greatest challenge, compliance with student authentication as eighth, and financial aid attendance compliance as ninth. Distance education administrators continue to consistently rank challenges involving student and organizational acceptance as their lowest concerns. Interestingly, the challenge of faculty acceptance ranked seventh in 2014 and 2013 suggesting campuses are having some issues as they implement assessment and quality course improvements which have been a focus for community colleges on all levels as they strive to raise graduation and student retention rates. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 11

12 Table 2: Greatest Challenges for Distance Education Programs Administrators Range for responses 1 is the greatest challenge, 8 is the least challenging Challenge Adequate student services for distance education students Support staff needed for training and technical assistance Adequate assessment of distance education classes 9 Operating and equipment budgets State authorization regulations Adequate administrative authority Faculty acceptance Student authentication Compliance with new financial aid attendance requirements Organizational acceptance Adequate space for training and technical assistance Student acceptance Learning Management System Usage During the past ten years, Blackboard acquisitions have dominated the learning management system (LMS) market. In 2013, the market share for Blackboard Learn, including Blackboard Learn-Angel Edition, was 58 percent. The 2014 survey data indicates 43 percent of respondents use Blackboard Learn; this represents a sizable loss of market share. The end of life for Blackboard Angel, coupled with increased competition in the LMS market as indicated in this year s survey results likely accounts for Blackboard s decline in market share. The 2014 survey results also confirm the continued increase in the number of campuses adopting Canvas by Instructure nearly 16 percent of the survey respondents report using Canvas. Canvas has moved into second place in the 2014 rankings. D2L (formerly Desire2Learn) showed some increase in market share as it grew to nearly 13 percent and is ranked third this year. Moodle rounds out the top four LMS providers and declined by two percent. 9 Adequate assessment of distance education classes was introduced as a new option in Student authorization regulations was introduced as a new option in Student authentication was introduced as a new option in Compliance with new financial aid attendance requirements was introduced as a new option in ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

13 Table 3: Learning Management System Usage Blackboard Learn 39% 38% 26% 26% 30% 35% 58% 42% Blackboard WebCT 13 39% 20% 10% 10% 7% 2% Blackboard Angel Learning 14 10% 15% 15% Angel Learning 15 9% 11% 13% Canvas by Instructure 16 9% 12% 16% Moodle 1% 11% 6% 9% 11% 14% 17% 15% D2L 4% 5% 7% 8% 13% 15% 11% 13% WebStudy 3% Timecruiser 2% Sakai 1% Etudes 1% Other 7% In 2014, only 26 percent of ITC survey respondents reported their college is considering switching to a different LMS in the next few years, a figure that is slightly down from 27 percent in From 2004 to 2012, consistently one third of the ITC survey respondents indicated they wanted to change. In 2013 more than 73 percent of respondents indicated they do not plan to switch their LMS. This response rate was 56 percent two years ago. On the flip side, for 2014, 74 percent of respondents indicated they are not considering a switch which suggests stabilization of the LMS market for now. The LMS market is more competitive and the pace of acquisitions has apparently subsided for now. The authors suspect the high costs associated with a LMS migration, and migration-fatigue, also contributed to ITC s more recent survey results. Seventy eight percent of respondents reported that their college restricts the number of LMS platforms it will support. The authors believe many colleges have imposed this restriction because: 1. colleges have a limited number of staff to support the LMS, 2. the amount of time and resources required to train faculty and students increases as the college supports more than one LMS, 3. the college will have to pay additional licensing and networking fees for each LMS, and 4. New federal and state regulations and compliance issues make it easier for colleges to monitor and manage one LMS platform ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: Distance educators see increased diversity in the number and variety of learning management system (LMS) options available and adoptions. 13 Blackboard acquired WebCT in Blackboard purchased Angel Learning in fall Blackboard purchased Angel Learning in fall Instructure launched Canvas in TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 13

14 CHALLENGES FOR ADMINISTRATORS Challenges for Administrators We need to improve success rates for first-time online students. We are in the process of providing students with a mandatory online tutorial. We use a learning styles indicator for new incoming students before they take an online course. Meeting compliance requirements for accessibility and universal design. Addressing the affordability of textbooks through OERs [open education resources] ITC Survey Respondents Accessibility Compliance Since ITC began asking survey participants about the accessibility of their online courses in 2008, survey respondents have expressed a steady decline in their confidence for whether their online courses adequately comply with Section and Section of the Rehabilitation Act of The 2014 survey results confirm this trend. On June 29, 2010, the Department of Justice and Department of Education sent college presidents a joint dear colleague letter that questioned whether electronic book readers are accessible to students who are blind or have low vision. This letter greatly increased awareness among the overall college administration and among distance educators about the need to comply with these national accessibility guidelines, rules and regulations. 19 In 2014, only 44 percent of the survey respondents reported that they are completely or mostly compliant with these guidelines. This is down from 50 percent from 2013, but more respondents (55 percent) report progress with some compliance. Many ITC survey respondents state their online courses are not as compliant as they should be because their program lacks adequate funding and staff resources to make the necessary changes. They also cite the absence of an institutional priority to address noncompliance issues. Table 4. Accessibility Compliance Completely or mostly compliant Some compliant percent 26 percent percent 21 percent percent 28 percent percent 39 percent percent 44 percent percent 47 percent percent 55 percent 17 Section 504 states that no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service. 18 Section 508 requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. 19 See the dear colleague letter the Department of Education and the Department of Justice sent college presidents at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague html 14 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

15 ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: The authors have seen greater awareness of Section 504 and 508 accessibility compliance requirements, but most campuses lack the resources they need to address these issues quickly and comprehensively. Online Degrees For 2014, 90 percent of respondents reported they are offering at least one distance education degree. This percentage generally has increased since percent (2010) 78 percent (2011) 90 percent (2012) 87 percent (2013) 90 percent (2014) The ITC survey follows the U.S. Department of Education s definition for a distance education degree program which states that at least 70 percent of the coursework students need is available online. The steady increase in student demand for online programs, continued maturation of online learning, and national efforts, such as the community college completion agenda, likely account for this upward trend. Respondents reported increases across most categories of degree programs. We also see measurable increases in the number of community colleges that offer online bachelor s degrees, a movement that has gained some national momentum. Both are positive developments and indicate a continued strengthening of distance education at community colleges. Chart 1 offers a percentage breakdown of the types of online degree programs at community colleges, by degree type. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 15

16 Chart 1: Types of Online Degree Programs at Community Colleges 80% 70% 60% % 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 AA Degree AS Degree AAS Degree AGS Degree BA Degree BS Degree Online Certificates In 2014, 76 percent of respondents indicated their institution offers an online certificate option (The ITC survey follows the U.S. Department of Education s guidelines which states at least 70 percent of the coursework students need to complete the certificate is available online). This is down from the 81 percent reported for 2013 but consistent with the percentage reported in ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

17 Class Hosting The ITC 2014 survey continues to confirm a trend toward out-sourced often cloud-based server support for online classes. Possible reasons for this trend include: more instructional technology (IT) staff support cloud-based and consortium-based hosting, colleges can save money by having to hire fewer IT personnel required to support in-house services and spend less on equipment-related costs. Out-sourced solutions often offer colleges increased reliability and performance, and many LMS providers have begun requiring their clients to adopt their hosting solution. Increased out-sourcing underscores a growing philosophical discussion many campuses have had regarding IT operations. Budget cuts and staff reductions have not only made out-sourcing solutions more attractive, but they are often essential for most IT operations, especially for those colleges that have limited server capacity. Technology-related advancements in the area of virtual servers and providers have also accelerated this trend. The survey found that: Twenty-five percent of respondents indicated they own and maintain their own servers. This figure is down from 30 percent reported in 2013, 36 percent in 2012, and 50 percent in Sixty-seven percent reported that they outsource their server needs to a third party. This figure is down from 57 percent reported in 2013, 55 percent in 2012, and 36 percent in Eight percent of respondents reported they shared servers with others, such as a statewide system, district or consortium. This is down from more than 12 percent that was reported in ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: More colleges are out-sourcing the hosting of their campus learning management system (LMS) platform. CHALLENGES FOR ADMINISTRATORS Challenges for Administrators Colleges need access to more prevalent and better network connections. There is not enough bandwidth to support Internet operations. Our biggest challenge is having to obtain state authorization for our out-of-state distance learning students and having the budget to adequately run our distance education department. There is more work to meet accessibility requirements, than there is time to do it. We struggle with the continual need to inform faculty about emerging distance learning technologies ITC Survey Respondents Online Course Enrollment Caps In 2012, the authors of the ITC survey stopped asking whether community colleges limit their online class size. The responses were essentially the same each year 80 percent of respondents indicated their college caps student enrollment in online courses. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 17

18 Limited funding and the need to downsize administrative staff and faculty have forced some campus administrators to consider increasing their online class size. In addition their historical tradition of offering students smaller classes across the board, community colleges have capped online course enrollment for several reasons. Since many faculty contracts limit their workload, many community college campuses impose the same smaller class size models online, as they do for their face-to-face classes. Virtual classroom instructors also confront unique challenges that can be time consuming and require more effort. Lower class sizes boost online course quality by ensuring time is available for faculty-to-student and student-to-student interaction and engagement. In 2012, the ITC survey began asking respondents about their interest and use of Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs). Although several foundations have funded interesting and useful initiatives that have created and incorporated MOOCs, particularly in the area of remedial programs for students, ITC s survey reports have found that community colleges have shown little interest in using MOOCs as an enrollment option during the past three years. Sixty-six percent have no plans to incorporate MOOC content. Eighteen percent are beginning to explore options for using MOOCs on their campuses. Three percent are incorporating MOOC curriculum into existing online courses ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: For the past three years, community colleges have shown little interest in creating or incorporating MOOCs into their distance education programs. Course Content Development In 2012, the authors of the ITC survey also stopped asking whether community colleges create their own online course content or if they use materials they purchased from a textbook publisher or other online course content provider. Past ITC surveys have consistently shown that 80 percent of community colleges develop their own course content and approximately 20 percent regularly use publisher-produced content. Today, most colleges have at least one qualified instructional designer on their staff. Previously, many community colleges were plagued by an acute shortage of trained and experienced online instructional designers. Most colleges lacked adequate professional development funding for existing staff members. Distance education departments have seen progress on both counts. A growing number of colleges have adopted, or created their own, quality assessment rubrics and review processes, such as Quality Matters TM. These efforts have positively impacted the standardization of online course quality and have streamlined the course design and content development process at many colleges ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: Most community colleges have identified resources to expand professional development, faculty training, and instructional design support. 18 ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

19 CHALLENGES FOR ADMINISTRATORS Challenges for Administrators We have a lot of challenges at our college for our distance learning program, including: Offering accessible courses to students. Obtaining meaningful evaluations of distance education courses from students. Creating procedures to assign distance education classes to instructors who are adequately prepared. Establishing quality-assurance procedures for education classes in accordance with accreditor expectations. Ensuring students are prepared to succeed in distance education classes. Transitioning our distance education course offerings from many classes to complete academic programs. Using data and analytics in a meaningful way to enhance student success. Using data and analytics in a meaningful way to evaluate distance education course and program offerings. and Helping faculty and newly-hired adjuncts become prepared to teach online ITC Survey Respondents Course Equivalency Accreditation standards require that the content and rigor of distance education courses are equivalent, or better than, that of the courses the college offers in a face-to-face environment. Since ITC s first survey in 2004, distance education administrators reported a better-than-anticipated equivalency. In 2014, as has been the trend, 95 percent of respondents reported their courses were equivalent to (85 percent), or superior (ten percent) to, traditional courses. Six percent reported that their courses needed to improve to be comparable to traditional courses ITC SURVEY TEN YEAR TREND: The quality of online courses has improved steadily over the years. Ninety-five percent of respondents reported that their online courses are equivalent or superior to traditional courses. Services and Technology Support Regional accrediting agencies require that institutions offer distance learning students support services that are equivalent to their on-campus and face-to-face counterparts. Most distance educators have learned that colleges must offer these services to help their online students succeed in the virtual environment. The survey results in 2014 mirrored the responses for 2013 and show that more colleges are offering these critical virtual services to their online students. Note that the ITC survey did not ask these questions in its 2012 survey, but the authors brought them back in 2013 due to popular demand. TRENDS IN elearning: THE IMPACT OF elearning AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES 19

20 Table 5: Status Report Student Services and Technology Support Service or Technology Currently Offer Plan to offer in next year Plan to offer in two or more years Do not plan to offer Campus Web portal Dedicated Web site for distance education Online admission to institution Online registration for classes Online payment tuition & fees payment Online student orientation for online courses Online library services and resources Online counseling and advising services Online tutoring assistance Online information and application for financial aid Help desk & technical support for online education faculty Campus Web portal was introduced as a new option in ITC 2014 DISTANCE EDUCATION SURVEY RESULTS

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