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Distance Education in Higher Education Institutions
NCES 98062
October 1997

Distance Education Program Goals

Institutions were asked about the importance of various goals to the institution's distance education program and the extent to which the distance education program is meeting those goals it considers important. Increasing student access was an important goal for most distance education programs. Increasing access by making courses available at convenient locations was rated as very important by 82 percent of institutions, and increasing access by reducing time constraints for course taking was rated as very important by 63 percent of institutions (Table 16). Making educational opportunities more affordable for students, another aspect of student access, was rated as very important by about half of the institutions.

Goals concerning increasing the institution's audiences and enrollments were also perceived as quite important, with increasing the institution's access to new audiences and increasing the institution's enrollments rated as very important by 64 percent and 54 percent of institutions, respectively (Table 16). Reducing the institution's per-student costs, often mentioned as an important reason for institutions to offer distance education, was rated as very important by 20 percent of the institutions. Meeting the needs of local employers was considered a very important goal by 38 percent of the institutions, and improving the quality of course offerings was considered very important by 46 percent of the institutions.

The percentage of institutions rating various goals as very important showed some variation by institutional type (Table 17). Public 2-year institutions were more likely than public 4-year institutions to perceive the following goals to be very important: reducing per-student costs, making educational opportunities more affordable, increasing institution enrollments, and increasing student access by reducing time constraints. Public 2-year institutions were more likely than private 4- year institutions to perceive reducing per-student costs and meeting the needs of local employers as very important.

In general, institutions indicated that most of the goals were met to a minor or moderate extent (Table 16). Goals particularly likely to be met to a major extent concerned student access, with the goal of making courses available at convenient locations met to a major extent by 40 percent of the institutions that considered this important, and the goal of reducing time constraints for course taking met to a major extent by 27 percent of the institutions that perceived this goal as important.

The extent to which institutions believed that they had met various goals varied by how important the particular goal was perceived to be (Table 18). In general, institutions that perceived a particular goal as very important more frequently indicated that the goal had been met to a moderate or major extent, while institutions that perceived a goal as somewhat important more frequently indicated that the goal had been met to a minor extent. For example, the majority of institutions that perceived making educational opportunities more affordable for students to be a very important goal indicated that the goal had been met to a moderate extent (52 percent) or major extent (23 percent), while 59 percent of institutions that perceived this goal to be somewhat important indicated that the goal had been met to a minor extent.

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