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Distance Education in IPEDS

On this page, you will find information about how distance education (DE) is defined in IPEDS and which survey components collect data on DE courses and/or programs.

Click to read how to report DE given the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus Pandemic Guidance

The Coronavirus Pandemic has forced many institutions to provide remote instruction that would otherwise have been delivered

in-person. Please note that survey-specific guidance about how to report IPEDS data given the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic are provided within each survey form and instructions package.

In general, when reporting data on DE courses in IC, E12, and EF, institutions SHOULD include remote learning implemented in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. When reporting data on DE programs in IC and C, institutions SHOULD NOT include remote learning implemented in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic unless the program anticipates maintaining this modality permanently. Allowing program completion via DE is not the same as having planned full DE programs.


Defining Distance Education

What is distance education?

Distance education (DE) is education that uses one or more types of technology to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. The following types of technology may be used for distance instruction:

  • Internet;
  • Satellite or wireless communication; and
  • Audio and video conferencing

Courses and programs are considered DE if ALL of their instructional portions can be completed remotely. Non-instructional in-person requirements (e.g., orientation and testing) do not exclude a course or program from being classified as exclusively DE:

What constitutes a distance education program?

Distance Education in IPEDS

IPEDS collects data on DE in four survey components: Institutional Characteristics (IC), 12-month Enrollment (E12), Fall Enrollment (EF), and Completions (C).

Which survey components collect distance education data at the course and/or the program levels?

How do IPEDS survey components collect distance education information?

Overview of DE data collection in IPEDS

Collection period Data coverage
DE courses DE programs Response type(s) Data collected Notes/
reporting errors
Institutional Characteristics
Fall Current academic year Yes Yes Multiple choice/checkbox Captures whether institutions offer DE courses and/or programs for undergraduate and graduate students and whether all programs are offered exclusively via DE
Click to view
IC notes
Click to view IC
common reporting errors
12-month Enrollment
Fall July 1-June 30 (prior year) Yes No Student counts Captures the number of students enrolled in DE courses over 12-month period
Click to view
E12 notes
Click to view E12
common reporting errors
Fall Enrollment
Spring Institutions' official fall reporting periods Yes No Student counts Captures the number of students enrolled in DE courses in the fall term and, of the students enrolled exclusively via DE, the number located in various geographic categories
Click to view
EF notes
Click to view EF
common reporting errors
Fall July 1-June 30 (prior year) No Yes Multiple choice Captures whether all, some, or none of the programs within each CIP code and award level can be completed entirely via DE.
Click to view
C notes
Click to view C
common reporting errors

How is distance education reporting integrated across IPEDS surveys?

IC data are the foundation of the entire IPEDS system. If DE course offerings are reported in IC, DE course enrollments should be reported in E12 and EF. Similarly, if DE program offerings are reported in IC, they should also be reported in C. Data submitters will receive error messages asking them to correct or explain their submission if DE data seem inconsistent between surveys or differ substantially with prior-year reporting.

Click on the graphic to view more detail on connections between surveys.

How are distance education data used?

  • Data on DE courses and programs provide researchers and policymakers with more accurate information about higher education opportunities. Stakeholders and researchers can reference data on DE courses and programs through the Digest of Education Statistics and the IPEDS Trend Generator.
  • Data collected on DE course and program offerings also allow institutions to compare their DE activities with those of their peers through an IPEDS Data Feedback Report.
  • Perhaps most importantly, College Navigator provides valuable consumer information to students and parents by featuring information on DE enrollment and DE program offerings.