The percentage of students taking college courses online has nearly tripled since 2002, according to an article in The Washington Post.
The Washington Post cited a study that stated 29% of college students took at least one online course in the fall of 2009, compared to 10% in 2002.
The 2010 study, Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010, noted that online education has been growing continuously. Online enrollment increased from 1.6 million in 2002 to 3.2 million in 2005 to 5.6 million in 2009, the study’s most recent available statistic.
Some administrators believe that online education is slowly increasing overall college enrollment. Online enrollment increased 21% from 2008 to 2009, where as the overall, national college enrollment figures increased 1%. However, some administrators believe that this is the beginning of a new trend, and online education could greatly increase the overall college population in upcoming years.
More and more colleges are implementing online courses into their curriculums, and those that do not have online courses are beginning to consider it. Almost two-thirds of the 2,500 colleges surveyed by this study said that online education is a “critical” aspect of their long-term plans.
The report also suggested that some of the common myths of online education being easier, less-detailed and less-effective are fading, stating that online education is not only gaining in popularity and enrollment but also credibility.
"In the first report of this series in 2003, 57% of academic leaders rated the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face," the report states, according to The Washington Post. "That number is now 66%, a small but noteworthy increase."
For-profit colleges and career-oriented campuses have been quick to incorporate online education into their curriculums. However, many of the prestigious private and public colleges have been much more hesitant to engage in online courses.
The University of North Carolina shook up the higher education world by requiring students to take a Spanish 101 course online, surprising other prestigious universities by becoming the first famous public school to sponsor and require online education.
The College Board and the Babson Survey Research Group collaborated to release this study. The groups called this study "the leading barometer of online learning in the United States.”