Key Findings

This report is the latest in BestColleges' research series reporting trends in online education. It includes an in-depth look at feedback on career planning and employment goals collected from 1,500 online students and 398 online program administrators in the fall of 2019.

We conducted an additional survey in May 2020, after the coronavirus outbreak, to gather input from more than 500 business leaders about their perceptions of online education and current hiring plans and practices. Findings are reported in three primary areas: career goals and online students, employer perceptions of online education, and college recruiting insights.

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Career Goals and Online Students

  • More than one-third (35%) of students who want to advance in their current field enrolled online because of an incentive or partnership available through their employer.
  • A majority of school administrators identified employer demand (72%) and student demand (71%) as the primary factors for developing an online program in a new subject area.
  • Forty-seven percent of business leaders said their organizations have some partnership with schools or vendors to offer online courses or programs to employees.
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Employer Perceptions of Online Education

  • Sixty percent of online students say their current employers think that online learning is "better than" or "equal to" on-campus options.
  • About half (49%) of business leaders from organizations that are actively involved in college recruiting say that online education is "better than" or "equal to" on-campus options.
  • Seventy percent of business leaders agree that the overall quality of online education has increased as a result of changes related to the coronavirus.
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College Recruiting Insights

  • Half (50%) of business leaders from organizations that actively recruit college students said they recruit students and recent graduates from online programs.
  • Seventy-one percent of those recruiting college students agree that their organizations screen job applicants to identify whether an individual's degree was earned from an online or in-person program.
  • A majority (63%) of business leaders recruiting college students have "slowed" or "halted" college recruiting or hiring practices since the coronavirus outbreak.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of those recruiting college students or recent graduates agree that their company or organization uses different strategies to recruit from online and in-person programs.

Interested in learning more about employment trends?

Meet the Author

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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