Online at Community Colleges

While rate of enrollment growth slows, it is still going up at two-year institutions, even as number of students overall declines at many institutions. MOOC skepticism is evident.

April 7, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Online enrollment continued to grow at community colleges in 2013, even as many two-year institutions saw overall enrollment stagnate or drop, according to a report released Sunday by the Instructional Technology Council.

The council released its annual report on online education at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges, with which it is affiliated.

In 2013, the 142 distance education officials who responded to the survey reported that their online enrollments were up by 5.2 percent over the previous year. That increase is smaller than those of the three previous years, going back chronologically, 6.5 percent, 8.2 percent, and 9 percent. But those increases came in years in which community colleges were reporting increases in both in-person and online enrollments, which is no longer the case this year.

The overall trends, summed up by the Instructional Technology Council's report, are that "online enrollment has continued to be the predominant source of enrollment growth in higher education during the last nine years, and the growth in online enrollment continues to slow."

While the report shows the importance of online education to community colleges, that doesn't extend to massive open online courses. Here it appears that more colleges are deciding that MOOCs are not the way to go. Last year, 42 percent of survey respondents said that they had no plans for adding MOOC content to their courses. This year, that total increased to 73 percent. Only 3 percent reported that they are using MOOCs in courses.

The report says that MOOC skepticism is very much appropriate. "Poor student retention rates and public failures ... have called the appropriateness of the MOOC approach into question," the report says. "Distance educators were aghast to hear MOOC executives state that only 5 to 6 percent of their students completed the MOOCs in which they enrolled. Their college administrators would never have allowed them to continued teaching online with such low student retention rates."

Other highlights of the survey:

  • The loss of market share of Blackboard in the community college learning management system market appears to have stopped. Comparisons aren't straightforward as Blackboard has over the years purchased entities such as Angel, which once were widely popular at community colleges. But Blackboard (combined with those entities) now has 58 percent of market share at community colleges, and appears to be gaining ground as a result of the consolidations. Despite that, Moodle appears to be gaining ground at community colleges -- this year rising to 17 percent, up from 14 percent a year ago. Instructure Canvas is also up this year, from 9 to 12.5 percent, while Desire2Learn lost ground.
  • The top challenge distance education administrators identify is to provide adequate student services to distance students. This is the third year in which that was identified as the top challenge.
  • Fifty-four percent of respondents said that their institutions charge a fee for distance courses. Of those that charge a fee, the range was from $4 to $75 a credit, with an average of $23.

Share Article

Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

Back to Top