A closer look at student utilization of online courses

Of the 167,317 students enrolled at a Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) institution in Fall 2014, over one in four students is enrolled in at least one online course. Online course delivery has grown exponentially in the past 5 years. USHE now offers 81 degree and certificate programs entirely online.

Such explosive growth in online offerings has created perceptions among some that a completely online experience is the future of higher education. While there are several online degrees that are in high industry demand such as an Associate’s in Computer Science (WSU), a Master of Accountancy (SUU), or a PhD in Nursing (U of U), a deeper look at how students utilize their online course options provides a slightly different picture:

  • 85% of students who enroll in online courses still take a majority of their courses on-campus.
  • Less than 3% of full-time students are enrolled totally online.
  • Most “100% online” students are part-time and over 25 years old.
  • Of students that are “100% online,” only 1 in 4 enroll in 4 or more courses, or full-time.

Fall 2014 Courses by Delivery Method (percentage of total students enrolled)

Despite the availability of online courses/degrees, students prefer using online courses to augment a traditional on-campus schedule. In fact, as the availability of online degrees has grown, the percentage of full-time students (3%) taking courses entirely online has remained unchanged since 2010.
Additional information on available online courses is available here.