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11 Takeaways From the 2021 CHLOE Report

The year when online education traveled forward in time.

June 23, 2021
 
 

The annual publication of the Changing Landscape of Online Education report is a big deal for us online learning geeks. We anticipate this annual joint Eduventures Research and Quality Matters publication the way superhero enthusiasts await Comic-Con.

This year's report (the sixth) may be the most anticipated CHLOE ever.

COVID-19 was a horrible pandemic, but it was also a time machine. In more than a few aspects of higher ed, COVID-19 has opened up a temporal rift that landed many of us (if only briefly) in 2030.

As always, I highly recommend downloading, reading, tweeting and talking about the report. The publication of CHLOE 6 represents a terrific opportunity to gather your institution's senior leaders together to talk about the future strategic role of online learning.

If you are worried that your deans, VPs, directors and various provost-type people may not have time to absorb all the data and analysis of CHLOE 6 fully, here are 11 big takeaways. (Note: the 69-page report does include an excellent two-page executive summary.)

Takeaway No. 1: Higher education is more agile than most anyone had previously believed.

The fact that more than 4,000 postsecondary institutions in the U.S. were able to nearly instantly pivot from residential to online instruction for roughly 20 million learners is truly astounding. Higher ed's response to COVID has forever destroyed the popular idea that colleges and universities are incapable of agility and speed.

Takeaway No. 2: The pandemic will accelerate online learning growth.

Eighty percent of chief online officers anticipate that their schools will grow online enrollment over the next three to five years.

Takeaway No. 3: Local is still where it's at for most schools, even in online programs.

Colleges and universities seem to recognize that competing with national online brands is exceedingly difficult but there is strong demand in their local and regional areas for online options.

Takeaway No. 4: Remote instruction for academic continuity and a strategic online program portfolio can be mutually reinforcing.

It is well understood that remote instruction and traditional online learning are very different things. The former is an emergency response, where the latter requires significant investments and development timelines. The CHLOE findings indicate that online leaders believe that the necessity of pivoting to universal remote learning will accelerate and deepen more long-term efforts to invest in fully online programs.

Takeaway No. 5: Community colleges are online learning leaders.

Community colleges may not get enough credit for leading innovation across the postsecondary sector. The CHLOE report finds that the experience that community colleges had built in online education positioned these institutions well to pivot to remote instruction.

Takeaway No. 6: Colleges and universities have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate the rollout of online programs.

A majority of chief online officers (72 percent) think that it is "very likely" (15 percent) or "likely for some" (57 percent) of ERL courses to transition to fully online courses after the pandemic. Colleges and universities have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate new online programs, as every professor now has some experience in the development and teaching of digitally mediated courses.

Takeaway No. 7: Synchronous online teaching is here to stay.

Over 80 percent of COOs think that at least some new or revised online course will include synchronous online components. Synchronous online instruction has gone from a high-intensity/high-cost online education marker to something that is more normative across all institutions.

Takeaway No. 8: Almost two-thirds of schools made investments in building online capacity during the pandemic.

The COOs surveyed for the CHLOE report say that 63 percent of institutions made either "some" or "substantial" investments in additional resources to support online learning during the pandemic. At least some of these investments will improve the long-run capabilities of schools to expand their online offerings.

Takeaway No. 9: Most of the technologies that enabled emergency remote instruction were already in place pre-pandemic, but there were significant investments in synchronous learning platforms during COVID.

Can you imagine if the pandemic had struck when most of us were in college? Nowadays, LMS adoption is universal. The LMS enabled schools to keep going, but the rapid rollout (and investment) in synchronous learning platforms allowed faculty and students to stay more fully connected over the past 18 months.

Takeaway No. 10: Open education resources got a pandemic bump.

OER showed the largest percentage jump in net major investment (7 percent) in 2021 compared to other technologies and platforms related to digital learning. COVID-19 brought a new awareness of the inherent inequities created by high-priced publisher course materials and textbooks and has seemingly accelerated a more institutional focus on OER.

Takeaway No. 11: There is an acute awareness among online leaders that the pandemic both revealed and exacerbated structural inequalities in higher education.

The CHLOE 6 report details the numerous ways schools attempted to bridge the digital divide by focusing on directing services and resources to disadvantaged learners. The degree to which schools invested in distributing hardware and working on getting internet access to students is not fully understood -- but it appears that this was a major priority for a broad range of colleges and universities throughout the pandemic.

Many other major takeaways can be extracted from the 2021 CHLOE report. (I'm still processing the findings on the effect of the pandemic on nonprofit/for-profit partners and the online program management OPM space.)

The point, I think, is that the CHLOE report can be a catalyst and enabler for a deep conversation about the strategic role of online education on your campus.

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