'No Discernible Growth' in Online Education Market?

January 7, 2015

The online education market showed "no discernible growth" between the fall of 2012 and 2013, according to a preliminary analysis of the federal government's data on students enrolled in distance education courses. The analysis, conducted by higher education consultant Phil Hill, shows that the number of students enrolled in fully online programs grew from 2.63 million to 2.65 million, a margin small enough to be considered statistical noise as many institutions changed how they reported enrollment data during that period.

"Think of the implications here if online education has stopped growing in U.S. higher education," Hill wrote. "Many of the assumptions underlying institutional strategic plans and ed-tech vendor market data are based on continued growth in online learning. It is possible that there will be market changes leading back to year-over-year growth, but for now the assumptions might be wrong."

The federal government data on students taking distance education courses only goes back to the fall of 2012, meaning the release of the fall 2013 data is the first time year-over-year comparisons have been possible.

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