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Babson Survey Research Group

Conducting regional, national, and international research projects, including survey design, sampling methodology, data integrity, statistical analyses and reporting.

Survey Reports

Over 6 million Students Learning Online

The 2011 Survey of Online Learning reveals that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6 million. Now nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.

“The rate of growth in online enrollments is ten times that of the rate in all higher education” said study co-author I. Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group and Professor of Statistics & Entrepreneurship at Babson College. “While growth rates have declined somewhat from previous years, we see no evidence that a dramatic slowdown in online enrollments is on the horizon.”

"There is a wide variety in rate of growth of online enrollments among different colleges and universities, and also among different programs within the same institution. For example, fully online health sciences programs show higher growth than online programs in other disciplines.”

Key report findings include:

  • Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.
  • The 10% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most are growing.
  • Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.
  • 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
  • There continues to be a consistent minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.

The ninth annual survey, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. Based on responses from over 2,500 academic leaders, the complete survey report can be downloaded here: Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 (pdf).

First Ever State-wide Study of Online Education in Illinois High Schools Finds Increased Usage

Online Learning in Illinois High Schools: Has the Time Come? (pdf)

Online education is increasingly being embraced by Illinois high schools, according to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group in cooperation with the Illinois Principals Association.

The report, Online Learning in Illinois High Schools: Has the Time Come? (pdf), is the first ever, in-depth, state-wide study of the role of online education.

Using data collected from over 200 Illinois high school principals, the study found that administrators see online learning as meeting the diverse needs of their students whether through

  • advanced placement,
  • elective college courses, or
  • credit recovery.

The major reason cited for online and blended offerings is to provide courses that otherwise would not be available.

The study coauthor Anthony G. Picciano of The Graduate Center and Hunter College at City University of New York noted the unique nature of this study: “It was a pleasure working with the Illinois Principals Association on the first study of the extent and nature of online learning in the state’s high schools.”

Dr. Picciano noted the important role online courses have for urban schools: “Of particular interest is the rise of online credit-recovery programs in urban schools for students needing to make-up coursework in order to graduate.” He also noted how online education is also of critical importance among the smaller and rural schools, but for very different reasons: “Also of interest are the cost-beneficial ways that rural schools are embracing online learning to expand course offerings for their students.”

Concerns that online learning is not as effective as face-to-face instruction remain, yet high school administrators see benefits to online learning programs that overshadow concerns about pedagogical value.

Other key findings include:

  • Credit recovery (for students to make up courses that they did not complete) is the most popular type of online course being offered among Illinois high schools.
  • Urban high schools, which historically have the lowest graduation rates, are embracing online credit recovery as a basic part of their academic offerings.
  • High school administrators consider online elective college-level courses as an effective means for the more able students to begin their college careers.
  • Rural schools are in the vanguard in offering online and blended learning programs to their students—using online courses to overcome significant problems in funding, teacher certification, and small enrollments.

More than Ninety Percent of College Faculty Use Social Media in the Workplace

Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media (pdf)

College faculty are twice as likely as other workers to be using social media as part of their job, and more than 80 percent of faculty are using some form of social media in their teaching, according to Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media (pdf). The results were presented during Cite 2011, Pearson’s 12th annual higher education technology conference.

The survey of nearly 2,000 faculty found that more than 90 percent of college faculty use social media in the workplace, compared to 47 percent of employees in other industries. In the classroom, 80 percent of respondents report using social media for some aspect of their course. Of those, nearly two-thirds use social media within their class session, and 30 percent post content for students to view outside of class.

“Faculty are big users of and believers in social media—nearly 80 percent use at least one online social media site to support their professional career activities. More than three-quarters have visited a social media site within the past month for personal use, with half of them posting content,” said Jeff Seaman, Ph.D., co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group.

Private-Sector Institutions Report Increased Demand for Online Learning

Online Learning Trends in Private-Sector Colleges and Universities (pdf)

More than 60 percent of academic leaders at private-sector colleges and universities say that online learning is critical to their long-term strategies and have included it in their formal strategic plans, according to a new study conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and sponsored by Pearson Learning Solutions.

The report, Online Learning Trends in Private-Sector Colleges and Universities (pdf), is a new analysis of the data collected for the annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning.

Online Education Grows by Almost a Million Students

Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010 (pdf)

The 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010 (pdf), reveals that enrollment rose by almost one million students from a year earlier. The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide finds approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2009, the most recent term for which figures are available.

“This represents the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online,” said study co-author I. Elaine Allen, Co-Director of the Babson Survey Research Group and professor of statistics and entrepreneurship at Babson College. “Nearly thirty percent of all college and university students now take at least one course online.” She adds: “There may be some clouds on the horizon. While the sluggish economy continues to drive enrollment growth, large public institutions are feeling budget pressure and competition from the for-profit sector institutions. In addition, the for-profit schools worry new federal rules on financial aid and student recruiting may have a negative impact on enrollments.”

Other report findings include:

  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
  • The 21% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.
  • Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.

American High Schools Increasingly Embrace Online Education

Class Connections: High School Reform and the Role of Online Learning (pdf)

Using data collected from a national sample of over 400 high school principals, the study Class Connections: High School Reform and the Role of Online Learning (pdf) found that these administrators see online learning as meeting the diverse needs of their students whether through advanced placement, elective college courses, or credit recovery. The major reason cited for online and blended offerings is to provide courses that otherwise would not be available.

Concerns that online learning is not as effective as face-to-face instruction remain, yet high school administrators see benefits to online learning programs that overshadow concerns about pedagogical value—the vast majority of their schools are moving forward with their programs and looking to expand them in the future.

The Sloan Surveys of Online Education

Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009 (pdf), the seventh annual Sloan Survey of online learning, reveals that online enrollment rose by nearly 17% from a year earlier. The survey, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group, the College Board and the Sloan Consortium, is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. Using results from more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide, the report finds approximately 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2008.

Previous National and Regional Reports

K-12 Online Surveys

Using data collected from a national sample of over 400 high school principals, Class Connections: High School Reform and the Role of Online Learning (pdf) found that these administrators see online learning as meeting the diverse needs of their students whether through advanced placement, elective college courses, or credit recovery. The major reason cited for online and blended offerings is to provide courses that otherwise would not be available.

The purpose of K–12 Online Learning: A 2008 follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators (pdf) is to replicate the 2005–2006 study in order to substantiate its findings and to examine what, if any, changes occurred in online learning in K–12 school districts.

K–12 Online Learning: A Survey of U.S. School District Administrators (pdf) reports that almost two-thirds of the responding public school districts are offering online courses; over the next two years districts predict online enrollments will increase by 19% and blended enrollments by 23%.

Faculty Surveys

More than one-third of public university faculty have taught an online course while more than one-half have recommended an online course to students, according to Online Learning as a Strategic Asset, Volume II: The Paradox of Faculty Voices: Views and Experiences with Online Learning (pdf), an unprecedented study of administrative and faculty views toward online learning by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities-Sloan National Commission on Online Learning.

Social Networking and Online Technology in Higher Education

More than 80% of college faculty are using social media, with more than half using these tools as part of their teaching, according to the first-of-its-kind survey. The survey was conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group in collaboration with New Marketing Labs and Pearson, a global leader in education, technology and services. See Social Media in Higher Education: The Survey (pdf) for the results.

Faculty are big users of and believers in social media—nearly 80% use at least one online social media site to support their professional career activities. More than three-quarters have visited a social media site within the past month for personal use, with half of them posting content.”

– Jeff Seaman, Ph.D.
Co-Director
Babson Survey Research Group

Contact The Babson Survey Research Group for more information.

Nearly 30% of all college and university students now take at least one course online.”

– I. Elaine Allen, Ph.D.
Co-Director
Babson Survey Research Group