The Evolution of Online Learning at Public Universities

Last updated on: March 14, 2022

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Online learning took center stage when the pandemic began — and the spotlight won’t dim any time soon. As our survey with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) discovered, public higher ed institutions expect to offer more classes and services online. This will create a new normal for learners and faculty as the pandemic wanes.

Click the image below to view the full infographic.

Conducted: Aug.17-Sept.17, 2021
Population: Provost-level administrators at AASCU member institutions
Survey respondents: 104 (80 completed the questionnaire)

Online programs (and enrollment) are on the rise

94% of responding higher ed institutions offer fully online programs

Share of these higher ed institutions that offer 5+ fully online programs
48% in 2013 → 76% in 2022

Forecasting online enrollment growth
↑ 64% reported growth pre-pandemic
↑ 90% expect additional growth in 3 to 5 years

Growth may boost investment in online learning

72% are more willing to invest in online learning infrastructure
Among these universities, 18% are willing to invest significantly more since the pandemic began.

More AASCU member institutions have full-time faculty who only teach online
40% in 2019 → 51% in 2022

Learners will have more paths to credentials

As learner needs shift, universities are seeking creative ways to expand access to online programs.

Many AASCU member institutions currently or plan to:
Offer online alternatives to degrees such as micro-credentials and stackable degrees
23% Current initiative
70% Adding in 3-5 years

Accept prior learning credit
49% Current initiative
39% Adding in 3-5 years

Partner with employers
51% Current initiative
38% Adding in 3-5 years

Student support will move online

While many services were only available to students in-person prior to the pandemic, responding higher ed institutions plan to move toward offering student services both in-person and online over the next 3 to 5 years.

Mental health services
More institutions will offer these services in-person and online.
22% Pre-pandemic → 90% In 3-5 years

Academic advising
More institutions will offer these services in-person and online.
44% Pre-pandemic → 98% In 3-5 years

Overcoming barriers can lead to benefits

AASCU member institutions experienced the following barriers, but many were able to make progress toward overcoming them:
49% overcame low faculty acceptance of online learning
38% overcame online course intellectual property concerns

Despite experiencing barriers, responding universities also saw the following benefits:

85% increased student access to programs
83% strengthened academic continuity during a disaster, such as the pandemic

Stay ahead of the online learning curve

Seeking data-driven guidance on how to thrive in online learning? We can help you find new program opportunities and kickstart enrollments. As a first step, download the Online Learning at Public Universities 2022 report today.

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