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Online programs at historically black colleges are increasing modestly

Inching Toward the Internet
June 14, 2013

Public historically black colleges and universities have made some — but not drastically significant — progress in terms of their online education offerings, while private HBCUs have had no gains in the past three years.

Growth in the total number of historically black colleges offering online programs has been steady yet modest, says a new report from Roy Beasley, who manages the Digital Learning Lab at Howard University.

Of the 106 total historically black institutions in the United States, 27 -- or about 25 percent -- offer fully online degree programs, compared with 24 in 2012 and 19 in 2010, according to the report. The number of public HBCUs offering such programs increased from 18 last year to 21 in 2013. But only six of the 55 private HBCUs currently offer online programs, which is a number that has stayed stagnant since 2010.

But the numbers are growing at an “appropriate pace” and mirror the patterns of institutions nationwide, Beasley said, who conducted his study with a systematic survey of the websites of HBCUs.

“Eighty percent of courses online are offered at public institutions,” Beasley said. “Public institutions are under pressure to provide access to the largest number of students. At private schools, that’s not their point. You’ll see the same pattern across HBCUs as you see at all universities.”

According to the 2012 iteration of the Babson Survey Research Group's annual Survey of Online Learning, conducted by Jeff Seaman and Elaine Allen, 62.4 percent of all institutions offered complete online-degree programs in 2012, compared to 34.5 percent in 2002. Seven in 10 public institutions offered online degree programs in 2012, compared to 48.9 percent in 2002. A total of 48.1 percent of private colleges offered online programs in 2012, doubling since 2002.

Historically black institutions are mostly private, small and focused on traditional aged-students living on campus, which are all characteristics associated with lower levels of online offerings, Seaman said in an e-mail. Therefore it is difficult to compare them to trends in all of higher education.

"The rate of online offerings at HBCUs is lower than the national average, but much (most) of that difference is explained by the nature of the institutions themselves," Seaman said.

HBCUs offered a total of 120 programs at all levels (associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral), which is 16 more than existed in 2012. However, the study notes that the two-year St. Philip's College, in San Antonio, accounted for 7 of the 16 new programs.

Beasley said this finding was unsurprising since two-year colleges have the “greatest demand” for the services online programs can provide.

 It was a private institution however, Hampton University, that offered 17 programs in 2012 and 2013 — far more than any other HBCU.

Though the report’s title notes that it planned to find information on both blended and online programs, there were no degree programs at the 106 HBCUs that Beasley would define as “blended,” since no programs stated that any face-to-face instruction was mandatory.

This outcome surprised Beasley, who said blended learning has advantages for administrators as well as for students.

A 2012 survey conducted jointly by the Babson Survey Research Group and Inside Higher Ed found that faculty from across institutions in the professions and the applied sciences were more excited and open to the idea of online education than their peers in other departments. Consistent with these results, 101, or 84 percent, of the online programs offered in 2013 at HBCUs were categorized as “professions and applied sciences” in the Howard University study.

This year’s study did not address how many HBCUs are teaming with online service providers, as it did in the past.

But Beasley said he expects that within a year, more small, private HBCUs will launch programs with the help of online service providers.

“This is the same nationally,” he said. “Even big public institutions are forming partnerships with companies.”

 Historically Black Colleges Offering Online/Blended Degree Programs

 

2010

2012

2013

Public

13

18

21

Private

6

6

6

% of total HBCUs offering online programs

18%

23%

25%

 Source: Digital Learning Lab at Howard University

 

 

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