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Education Statistics Quarterly
Vol 5, Issue 3, Topic: Postsecondary Education
Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2000–2001
By: Tiffany Waits and Laurie Lewis
 
This article was originally published as the Executive Summary of the E.D. Tabs report of the same name. The sample survey data are from the Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS).
 
 

Introduction

This study, conducted through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), was designed to provide current national estimates on distance education at 2-year and 4-year Title IV1 degree-granting institutions. Distance education was defined for this study as education or training courses delivered to remote (off-campus) sites via audio, video (live or prerecorded), or computer technologies, including both synchronous (i.e., simultaneous) and asynchronous (i.e., not simultaneous) instruction.


Key Findings

The PEQIS survey provides national estimates for the 2000–01 academic year on the number and proportion of institutions offering distance education courses, distance education enrollments and course offerings, degree and certificate programs, distance education technologies, participation in distance education consortia, accommodations for students with disabilities, distance education program goals, and factors institutions identify as keeping them from starting or expanding distance education offerings.

Institutions offering distance education courses

During the 12-month 2000–01 academic year, 56 percent (2,320) of all 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions offered distance education courses for any level or audience (i.e., courses designed for all types of students, including elementary and secondary, college, adult education, continuing and professional education, etc.) (table A). Twelve percent of all institutions indicated that they planned to start offering distance education courses in the next 3 years; 31 percent did not offer distance education courses in 2000–01 and did not plan to offer these types of courses in the next 3 years.

Public institutions were more likely to offer distance edu-cation courses than were private institutions. In 2000–01, 90 percent of public 2-year and 89 percent of public 4-year institutions offered distance education courses, compared with 16 percent of private 2-year and 40 percent of private 4-year institutions (table A).

College-level, credit-granting distance education courses at either the undergraduate or graduate/first-professional level were offered by 55 percent of all 2-year and 4-year institutions. College-level, credit-granting distance education courses were offered at the undergraduate level by 48 per-cent of all institutions, and at the graduate level by 22 per-cent of all institutions.

Fifty-two percent of institutions that had undergraduate programs offered credit-granting distance education courses at the undergraduate level.2 Further, college-level, credit-granting distance education courses were offered at the graduate/first-professional level by 52 percent of institutions that had graduate/first-professional programs.

Distance education enrollments and course offerings

In the 12-month 2000–01 academic year, there were an estimated 3,077,000 enrollments in all distance education courses offered by 2-year and 4-year institutions. There were an estimated 2,876,000 enrollments in college-level, credit-granting distance education courses, with 82 percent of these at the undergraduate level.

Consistent with the distributions of the percentage of institutions that offered distance education courses, most of the distance education course enrollments were in public 2-year and public 4-year institutions. Public 2-year institutions had the greatest number of enrollments in distance education courses, with 1,472,000 out of 3,077,000, or 48 percent of the total enrollments in distance education (figure A). Public 4-year institutions had 945,000 enrollments (31 percent of the total), and private 4-year institutions had 589,000 enrollments (19 percent of the total).3

About a quarter (22 percent) of institutions that offered distance education in 2000–01 had 100 or fewer distance education enrollments, and 30 percent had 101 to 500 enrollments. In addition, 16 percent had 501 to 1,000 enrollments, 17 percent reported enrollments of 1,001 to 2,500, and 15 percent reported more than 2,500 enrollments for the 2000–01 academic year.

An estimated 127,400 different distance education courses for any level or audience were offered by 2- and 4-year institutions during the 12-month 2000–01 academic year. An estimated 118,100 different college-level, credit-granting distance education courses were offered, with 76 percent at the undergraduate level.

Of the institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01, about a quarter (27 percent) offered 10 or fewer courses, and 25 percent offered 11 to 30 courses. In addition, 15 percent of the institutions offered 31 to 50 courses, 19 percent offered 51 to 100 courses, and 15 per-cent offered more than 100 distance education courses.

Figure A. Percentage distribution of enrollment in all distance education courses in 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions, by institution type:1 2000–01
Figure A. Percentage distribution of enrollment in all distance education courses in  2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions, by institution type: 2000-01

1Data for private 2-year institutions are not reported in a separate category because too few private 2-year institutions in the sample offered distance education courses in 2000–01 to make reliable estimates.

NOTE: Enrollments may include duplicated counts of students, since institutions were instructed to count a student enrolled in multiple courses for each course in which he or she was enrolled. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding, missing data, or because too few cases were reported for a reliable estimate for private 2-year institutions. (See appendix A of the full report for details.)

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), survey on “Distance Education at Higher Education Institutions, 2000–2001,” 2002. (Originally published as figure 3 on p. 7 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)

Degree and certificate programs

Among all 2- and 4-year institutions in 2000–01, 19 percent had degree or certificate programs designed to be completed totally through distance education. Among the 56 percent of institutions that offered distance education courses, 34 percent had degree or certificate programs designed to be completed totally through distance education. Institutions were more likely to offer distance education degree programs than certificate programs. Among the institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01, 30 per-cent offered degree programs and 16 percent offered certificate programs.

Among institutions that offered distance education courses, public 4-year institutions were most likely (48 percent) to offer degree programs designed to be completed totally through distance education, followed by private 4-year institutions (33 percent) and public 2-year institutions (20 percent). With regard to certificate programs, 25 per-cent of public 4-year institutions that offered distance education courses had certificate programs designed to be completed totally through distance education, compared with 15 percent of public 2-year and 14 percent of private 4-year institutions.

Distance education technologies

The Internet and two video technologies were most often used as primary modes of instructional delivery for distance education courses by institutions during the 12-month 2000–01 academic year. Among institutions offering distance education courses, the majority (90 percent) reported that they offered Internet courses using asynchronous computer-based instruction (table B). In addition, 43 percent of institutions that offered distance education courses offered Internet courses using synchronous computer-based instruction, 51 percent used two-way video with two-way audio, and 41 percent used one-way prerecorded video as a primary mode of instructional delivery for distance education courses.4 Further, of the institutions offering distance education courses, 29 percent used CD-ROM as a primary mode of instructional delivery and 19 percent used multi-mode packages.

Of the institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01 or that planned to offer distance education courses in the next 3 years, 88 percent indicated plans to start using or increase the number of Internet courses using asynchronous computer-based instruction as a primary mode of instructional delivery for distance education courses. In addition, 62 percent of institutions indicated that they planned to start using or increase the number of Internet courses using synchronous computer-based instruction as a primary mode of instructional delivery, 40 percent planned to start using or increase the number of courses using two-way video with two-way audio, 39 percent planned to start using or increase the number of courses using CD-ROMs, and 31 percent planned to start using or increase the number of courses using multi-mode packages. About a quarter (23 percent) planned to start using or increase the number of courses using one-way prerecorded video.

Participation in distance education consortia

Among the institutions that offered distance education in 2000–01, 60 percent participated in some type of distance education consortium. Of those institutions that participated in a distance education consortium, 75 percent indicated that they participated in a state consortium, 50 percent in a system consortium (a consortium within a single university system or community college district), 27 percent in a regional consortium, 14 percent in a national consortium, and 4 percent in an international consortium.

Public 2-year institutions were more likely than either public or private 4-year institutions to participate in some type of distance education consortium. Eighty-three percent of public 2-year institutions reported that they participated in a consortium, compared with 68 percent of public 4-year institutions and 25 percent of private 4-year institutions.

Accommodations for students with disabilities

Of the 2- and 4-year institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01, 45 percent had occasionally received requests in the last 3 years to provide accommodations in distance education courses for students with disabilities, 37 percent reported never receiving this type of request, 15 percent did not know if they had received requests for accommodations in the last 3 years, and 3 per-cent received requests frequently.

Almost all (95 percent) 2- and 4-year institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01 indicated that they had used web sites for their distance education courses. Of the institutions that had used web sites for distance education courses, 18 percent indicated that they followed established accessibility guidelines or recommendations for users with disabilities to a major extent, 28 percent followed the guidelines to a moderate extent, 18 percent followed the guidelines to a minor extent, 3 percent did not follow the guidelines at all, and 33 percent did not know if the web sites followed accessibility guidelines.

Distance education program goals

Of those institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01, a majority reported that increasing student access in various ways was a very important goal of their institution’s distance education program. Sixty-nine percent of the institutions indicated that increasing student access by making courses available at convenient locations was very important, and 67 percent reported that increasing student access by reducing time constraints for course-taking was very important (table C). In addition, 36 percent reported that making educational opportunities more affordable for students, another aspect of student access, was a very important goal of their distance education program.

On issues related to institutional enrollment and cost, 65 percent of institutions offering distance education indicated that increasing the institution’s access to new audiences was very important, 60 percent reported that increasing institution enrollments was very important, and 15 percent reported that reducing the institution’s per-student costs was very important (table C). In addition, improving the quality of course offerings was considered to be a very important goal for 57 percent of the institutions, and meeting the needs of local employers was rated as very important by 37 percent of the institutions.

In general, institutions reported that most of the goals they considered to be important for their distance education programs were being met to a moderate or major extent. Increasing student access by making courses available at convenient locations was reported to have been met to a major extent by 37 percent of institutions that considered it an important goal, and increasing student access by reducing time constraints for coursetaking was reported to have been met to a major extent by 32 percent of institutions that considered it an important goal (table C).

Institutions that reported that a particular goal was very important to their distance education program more often indicated that the goal had been met to a major extent compared with institutions that reported the goal as somewhat important, while institutions that reported a goal as somewhat important more frequently indicated that the goal had been met to a minor extent compared with institutions that rated the goal as very important.

Factors that keep institutions from starting or expanding distance education offerings

All institutions, including those with no future plans to offer distance education courses, were asked to rate the extent to which each of 15 factors was keeping them from starting or expanding their distance education course offerings. The response categories were “not at all,” “minor extent,” “moderate extent,” and “major extent.” Institutions did not consider most of the factors listed to be keeping them from starting or expanding their distance education course offerings. However, 26 percent of institutions reported that program development costs kept their institution from starting or expanding their distance education course offerings to a major extent.

Whether an institution offered distance education courses, or whether the institution planned to offer these courses in the next 3 years, was related to whether some factors were perceived to be keeping institutions from starting or ex-panding their distance education course offerings to a major extent. For institutions that did not plan to offer distance education in the next 3 years, factors perceived as keeping these institutions from starting distance education to a major extent included lack of fit with the institution’s mission (44 percent), program development costs (33 percent), concerns about course quality (26 percent), limited technological infrastructure to support distance education (24 percent), and lack of perceived need (22 per-cent). Except for program development costs, these factors were generally not perceived to be limiting the expansion of distance education courses to a major extent for institutions that offered distance education in 2000–01.

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Table A. Number and percentage distribution of 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions, by distance education program status and institution type and size: 2000–01
Institution type and size Total number of institutions Distance education program status
Offered distance education in 2000–01 Planned to offer distance education in the next 3 years Did not offer in 2000–01 and did not plan to offe in the next 3 years
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
   All institutions 4,130 2,320 56 510 12 1,290 31
Institution type
   Public 2-year 1,070 960 90 50 5 50 5
   Private 2-year 640 100 16 150 23 400 62
   Public 4-year 620 550 89 20 3 50 8
   Private 4-year 1,800 710 40 290 16 790 44
Size of institution
   Less than 3,000 2,840 1,160 41 460 16 1,220 43
   3,000 to 9,999 870 770 88 50 5 60 7
   10,000 or more 420 400 95 10 2 10 2

NOTE: Percentages are based on the estimated 4,130 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions in the nation. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), survey on "Distance Education at Higher Education Institutions, 2000–2001," 2002. (Originally published as table 1 on p. 22 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


Table B. Percent of 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions offering any distance education courses, by primary technology for instructional delivery for distance education courses, and by institution type and size: 2000–01
Institution type and size Primary technology for instructional delivery
Two-way video with two-way audio1 One-way video with two-way audio One-way live video One-way pre- recorded video Two-way audio trans- mission One-way audio trans- mission Syn- chronous internet courses2 Asyn- chronous internet courses3 CD-ROM Multi-mode packages Other Tech-nologies
All institutions 51 11 8 41 9 11 43 90 29 19 3
Institution type4
   Public 2-year 60 13 9 57 7 11 40 95 30 21 2
   Public 4-year 80 15 13 40 11 10 55 87 29 29 5
   Private 4-year 22 6 4 24 11 12 35 86 23 11 3
Size of institution
   Less than 3,000 39 6 4 29 8 9 36 87 22 11 2
   3,000 to 9,999 57 10 10 49 10 10 46 92 31 22 3
   10,000 or more 70 26 17 61 12 18 56 95 43 36 5

1The wording in the questionnaire was "Two-way video with two-way audio (i.e., two-way interactive video)."

2The wording in the questionnaire was "Internet courses using synchronous (i.e., simultaneous or "real time") computer-based instruction."

3The wording in the questionnaire was "Internet courses using asynchronous (i.e., not simultaneous) computer-based instruction."

4Data for private 2-year institutions are not reported in a separate category because too few private 2-year institutions in the sample offered distance education courses in 2000–01 to make reliable estimates. Data for private 2-year institutions are included in the totals and in analyses by other institutional characteristics.

NOTE: Percentages are based on the estimated 2,320 institutions that offered any distance education courses in 2000–01. Percentages sum to more than 100 because institutions could use different types of technologies as primary modes of instructional delivery for different distance education courses.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), survey on "Distance Education at Higher Education Institutions, 2000–2001," 2002. (Originally published as table 10 on p. 40 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


Table C. Percentage distribution of 2-year and 4-year Title IV degree-granting institutions that offered distance education courses in 2000–01, by the level of importance in meeting various goals for distance education programs, and the percentage distribution of those institutions by the extent to which the institution is meeting those goals: 2002
Distance education program goal Importance1 Extent goal met2
Not important Somewhat important Very important Not at all Minor extent Moderate Extent Major extent
Reducing institutionís per-student costs 38 47 15 16 45 35 4
Making educational opportunities more affordable for students 23 40 36 7 34 45 14
Increasing institution enrollments 6 35 60 4 30 44 22
Increasing student access by reducing time constraints for coursetaking 6 27 67 1 23 43 32
Increasing student access by making courses available at convenient locations 8 23 69 2 18 43 37
Increasing the institutionís access to new audiences 5 30 65 4 33 44 19
Improving the quality of course offerings 15 28 57 2 29 51 18
Meeting the needs of local employers 25 38 37 6 40 42 12

1 Percentages are based on the estimated 2,320 institutions that offered any distance education courses in 2000–01.

2 Percentages are based on institutions that rated a given goal as somewhat or very important.

NOTE: This question was asked in the present tense rather than referring to 2000–01, and thus the estimates reflect the responses of the institutions at the time the data were collected in spring 2002. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), survey on "Distance Education at Higher Education Institutions, 2000–2001," 2002. (Originally published as table 16 on p. 52 of the complete report from which this article is excerpted.)


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Footnotes

1Institutions participating in Title IV federal student financial aid programs are accredited by an agency or organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, have a program of over 300 clock hours or 8 credit hours, have been in business for at least 2 years, and have a signed Program Participation Agreement (PPA) with the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), U.S. Department of Education.

2Institutions can be characterized by whether they have any undergraduate programs or graduate/first-professional programs (either on campus or distance education). These programs are identified by the 2000 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, “Institutional Characteristics Survey” (IPEDS-IC:2000). These programs, as identified by IPEDS, should not be confused with the level of distance education course offerings. Of the estimated 4,130 Title IV degree-granting institutions at the 2-year or 4-year level, 3,810 institutions have undergraduate programs, and 1,700 have graduate/first-professional programs; 1,380 of the institutions have programs at both levels.

3Data for private 2-year institutions are not reported in a separate category because too few private 2-year institutions in the sample offered distance education courses in 2000–01 to make reliable estimates. Data for private 2-year institutions are included in the totals and in analyses by other institutional characteristics.

4Percentages sum to more than 100 because institutions could use different types of technologies as primary modes of instructional delivery for different distance education courses.


Data source: The NCES Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS), survey on “Distance Education at Higher Education Institutions, 2000–2001,” 2002.

For technical information, see the complete report:

Waits, T., and Lewis, L. (2003). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2000–2001 (NCES 2003–017).

Author affiliations: T. Waits and L. Lewis, Westat.

For questions about content, contact Peter Tice.

To obtain the complete report (NCES 2003–017), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827) or visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).


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