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Online Learning in Higher Education

Online Learning in Higher Ed

January 2014

Author: Tara Bergfeld

Legislative Brief

Technological advances in communications, Internet speed, and classroom support tools have introduced new ways of delivering information in the classroom. Online classes and degree programs are commonly offered at all types of higher education institutions. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of students enrolled in online courses throughout the U.S. grew 283 percent – from 1.6 million to 6.1 million. Nearly one-third of all higher education students took at least one course online in 2011. Tennessee’s higher education institutions have offered flexible online course options for the last decade. In the 2011-12 academic year, about 14 percent of courses at Tennessee four-year institutions and more than 23 percent at community colleges were classified as e-learning courses in which 50 percent or more of the content is delivered electronically. This brief examines why students enroll in online courses, whether online education is effective, the costs of online education, and how online learning is offered through Tennessee’s higher education institutions.