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Increasing numbers of college and university chief academic officers plan to expand their online offerings and make major allocations of funds to online programs, a new survey by Inside Higher Ed shows.

The 2019 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers, published today by Inside Higher Ed in conjunction with Gallup, finds that 83 percent of provosts say they will increase their emphasis on expanding online programs and offerings. That figure has edged up slightly in recent years, from 79 percent in 2016.

About the Survey

Inside Higher Ed’s 2019 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers was conducted in conjunction with researchers from Gallup. Inside Higher Ed regularly surveys key higher ed professionals on a range of topics.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Inside Higher Ed will present a free webcast to discuss the results of the survey. Register for the webcast here.

The Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers was made possible in part with support from Wiley, Oracle, Phi Kappa Phi and Gallup.

A more significant rise has occurred in the proportion of academic officers anticipating a "major allocation of funds" to online programs. The survey asks provosts to assess the likelihood of increased funds to several categories of programs, including professional programs, STEM fields and the arts and sciences. As seen in the chart below, the share of provosts agreeing or strongly agreeing they would allocate major funds to online programs has grown to 56 percent this year from 46 percent four years earlier.

Source: 2019 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers

A sizable majority of chief academic officers (79 percent) say they favor "the awarding of academic credit based on demonstrated competence," in lieu of spending a certain amount of time on a course. Public college and university provosts are much likelier to say so than their private college counterparts. About three in five provosts over all agree that it should be easier for students to earn credits and degrees based on what they have learned, not just time in the classroom.

But far fewer chief academic officers (52 percent) say their institution currently awards credit based on demonstrated competency, and of the 48 percent who do not, only about a third (37 percent) say they are exploring a competency-based approach for some programs.

Provosts have similarly mixed views about the use of open educational resources to bring down students' expenditures on curricular materials.

A slim majority, 51 percent, agree or strongly agree that "open educational resources, freely available online materials, are of sufficiently high quality that they should be used in most general education courses." Nineteen percent of chief academic officers disagree.

Notably fewer agree, however, that "faculty members and institutions should be open to changing textbooks or other materials to save students money, even if the lower-cost options are of lesser quality" (as many disagree as agree, 37 percent). And 44 percent agree that "the need to help students save money on textbooks justifies some loss of faculty member control over selection of materials for the courses they teach," while 34 percent disagree.

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