Fifth annual survey finds that online students are getting younger and increasingly career focused

April 16, 2019, SEATTLE - BestColleges, a leading provider of independent college rankings, planning resources, and higher education research, today announced the release of its fifth annual Online Education Trends Report. This year's report includes candid feedback from more than 450 school administrators and 1,500 students and analyzes year-over-year data to uncover shifting trends in online education. Most notably, BestColleges' year-over-year research reveals steadily increasing motivation relating to career and employment goals among online students. This year, 69 percent of online students identified employment as their primary goal for entering a program.

In addition to illustrating student motivations, the survey results also indicate that the "typical" online student is increasingly difficult to define. Age, location, support needs, and other student demographics are shifting and becoming more diverse as online programming becomes more mainstream and accessible. As students with a wider range of characteristics enter online learning programs, the need for targeted support for both students and faculty is expected to increase.

The 2019 Online Education Trends Report includes data-driven insight into some of the most important topics in higher education from BestColleges' online education advisor Dr. Melissa Venable. Key takeaways and predictions are presented throughout the report and organized into three primary categories: top trends, marketing and recruitment, and program design and development. Within the context of these categories, the report outlines some of the greatest online education challenges faced by students and school administrators.

Predictably, cost and financial concerns continue to be students biggest challenges when choosing an online program. As in previous surveys, students identified the top two most challenging aspects of making decisions about online education as "estimating annual costs" and "applying for financial aid and identifying sufficient funding sources." Sixty-eight percent of school administrators reported that marketing and meeting recruitment goals are currently their biggest challenge when offering new online programs.

Despite the current online education challenges faced by students and administrators, demand for online education has remained steady, with 99 percent of schools reporting that demand has either increased or remained the same over the past several years.

"As online education becomes more widely accessible, it's important to evaluate the latest trends in online learning and measure their impact on students and academic institutions over time," said Stephanie Snider, director of BestColleges. "By analyzing the experiences and perspectives of students and administrators, we can gain a holistic sense of the current state of online education and make informed decisions about the creation of new online learning programs and opportunities."

Trends in Online Education

Online Program Marketing and Recruitment

Online Program Design and Development

To view all the findings from the 2019 Online Education Trends Report, click here.

About BestColleges

BestColleges empowers students to make smarter educational decisions and find schools that best fit their needs through proprietary research, user-friendly guides, and hundreds of unique college rankings. As a trusted education advisor, they also provide a wide array of college planning, financial aid, and career resources to help students realize life goals and overcome educational challenges as they prepare for careers after college. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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