What Does Research Say About Online Learning?

Online Learning Studies and Statistics

Distance learning has made a major impact in the world of education. Online education statistics and studies show that online learning is an effective and reputable way to earn a college degree.

Want to know more? Here are some highlights from online learning research reports:

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Administrators are more likely to value online education than faculty.

The results of research about online learning may surprise you.
The results of research about online learning may surprise you. Stuart Kinlough / Ikon Images / Getty Images

Your college's dean and department chair may be completely sold on the idea of online learning, while your individual instructors may be less so. A 2014 study reported: "The proportion of chief academic leaders reporting online learning is critical to their long-term strategy reached a new high of 70.8 percent. At the same time, only 28 percent of academic leaders say that their faculty accepts the 'value and legitimacy of online education.” Source: 2014 Survey of Online Learning Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States, Babson Survey Research Group.

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Students involved in online learning outperform their peers.

According to a 2009 meta study from the Department of Education: “Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.” Students who mix online learning with traditional coursework (i.e. blended learning) do even better. Source: Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, United States Department of Education.

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Millions of students are participating in online learning.

According to the federal data, 5,257,379 million students took one or more online class in 2014. That number continues to grow every year. Source: 2014 Survey of Online Learning Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States, Babson Survey Research Group.

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Most reputable colleges offer online learning.

The National Center for Educational Statistics found that two-thirds of Title IV, degree-granting post secondary schools offered some form of online learning. (Title IV schools are properly accredited institutions permitted to participate in federal financial aid programs.) Source: Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions, National Center for Education Statistics.

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Public colleges report a greater commitment to online learning.

Public schools are more likely to identify online learning as an essential part of their long-term strategy, according to the Sloan Consortium. Their online learning courses are also more likely to represent a greater number of disciplines. Source: Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States 2008, Sloan Consortium.