Key Findings

This year, our fourth year of reporting original data, includes participation from 398 school administrators and 1,500 students (prospective students, current students, and online program alumni). Findings are presented in five categories: online learner demographics, the online learning experience, online program marketing and recruitment, online program design and development, and online student satisfaction.

A Note from BestColleges on Coronavirus and the Transition to Online Education

As traditional colleges and universities now move to quickly adopt remote and online education strategies in all courses, a focus on communication and support is the paramount priority at this time. The Online Education Trends Report was compiled and published shortly before the coronavirus outbreak. The online program administrators and students who participated in our surveys shared that teaching and learning at a distance can be both rewarding and challenging.

Their feedback helps to convey realistic expectations and considerations for long-term development of online programs. A constant focus on communication, student support, and continual improvement will be critical for success. Visit the BestColleges blog for our latest resources and information related to coronavirus and higher education.

The Online Learning Experience

  • “Reputation of a specific school” ranked low again this year in the reasons students choose online learning over on-campus learning.

  • A little more than half (57%) of students currently enrolled in an online degree or certificate program report that they visit their school’s physical campus.

  • About half of online students (49%) report that their online classes have synchronous components.
The Online Learning Experience

Online Program Marketing and Recruitment

  • The two primary sources of information for students thinking about online programs are contacting schools directly (19%) and researching rankings websites (19%).

  • For the fourth year in a row, online program alumni say they would “compare more programs” (26%) and “do more research about costs and financial aid” (25%) if they had to do it over again.
Online Program Marketing and Recruitment Online Program Marketing and Recruitment

Online Program Design and Development

  • Institutions decide to offer a new online program primarily based on perceived demand from both employers (72%) and students (71%).

  • “Marketing new online programs to prospective students and meeting recruitment goals” remains the top concern about launching a new program, according to 65% of school administrators.

  • Demand for online programs continues to be high – 99% of administrators say they saw an increase last year or demand has stayed the same in the past few years.
Online Program Design and Development Online Program Design and Development

Online Student Satisfaction

  • Student satisfaction with online learning is high – overall, 94% say it has, or will have, a positive ROI and 95% would recommend online education to others.
Online Student Satisfaction Online Student Satisfaction

Meet the Author

Melissa A. Venable Ph.D.

Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D. is an online education advisor for BestColleges. In this role, she leads this annual survey research project reporting online education trends found through student and school administrator feedback. Melissa is an adjunct faculty member and course designer at Saint Leo University and the University of South Florida and a certified career coach with a background in career development services. She earned her doctorate in instructional technology at the University of South Florida with research interests in distance education and support services for online students.

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