Online Education: Past, Present and Future

Session Archive
This session will spotlight the development of online education in higher education, trends in online education today, and potential for future growth. We will focus on the spectrum of available online education formats and share examples of how faculty and institutions are leveraging web-enhanced, blended, and fully online modes of instruction to meet the needs of the 21st century students. Examples of sample blended and online courses will be shared along with suggestions for overcoming obstacles to getting started with online education.

What is Online Learning?

  • Online courses are those in which at least 80% of the course content is delivered online
  • Face-to-face instruction includes courses in which 0 to 29% percent of the content is delivered online; this category includes both traditional and web facilitated courses. 
  • Blended (sometimes called hybrid) instruction is defined as having between 30% and 80% of the course content delivered online. 

Initial Impressions

When you hear the term online learning, what comes to mind?
  • borderless classrooms
  • computer-based
  • threaded discussion
  • 24/7
  • cheating
  • teach yourself
  • diploma mills
  • extra income
  • pajamas
  • portability
  • contraversy--perceptions of more traditionally-minded faculty (loosing control, intellectual property)
  • lack of rigorous
  • disconnected
  • more work
  • students can't hide
  • technical issues, challenges, support
  • depersonalizing (computer vs. person)
  • wider world view / wider potential audience
Perceptions of Learning
What are the characteristics of face-to-face learning?  What are the characteristics of online learning?

 Face-to-Face Learning
 Online Learning
  • soul contact
  • relational
  • interactive / socratic dialogue
  • opportunity to model teaching
  • physical reactions/body language
  • tend to lecture
  • more spontaneity
  • group social capital
  • more facilitation, less lecturing
  • focus more on student, less on instructor
  • can be repeated/rewind
  • students expected to more "teaching of themselves"
  • self-motivation
  • more structured (have more structure to your class)
  • quiet student will flourish (not as intimidated)
  • everyone has a voice

Perceptions of Online Learning
What are the benefits and challenges associated with online learning?

 Face-to-Face Learning
 Online Learning
  • more spontaneity
  • keep on doing things the way we've always done them

  • everyone has a voice
  • easier to "phone it in"...students and professors can put in as much or as little as needed
  • how do you model good teaching online?
  • how do you cover the same amount of information online?
  • how to capture the ethos of the professor?

Perceptions of Online Roles

What are the roles of faculty and students in an online learning environment

 Face-to-Face Learning
 Online Learning
  • Faculty verbalize instructions
  • Faculty more directed
  • students more active, more engaged
  • personal experience/dialogue between novice and expert
  • faculty more intentional
  • personality more difficult 
  • more of a facilitator

Trends in Online Learning

Higher Education Online Learning

How many students are learning online?

  • Over 4.6 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2008 term; a 17% increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 17 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.2% growth of the overall higher education student population
  • More than one in four higher education students now take at least one course online
What is the impact of the economy on online education?
  • Academic leaders at all types of institutions report increased demand for face-to-face and online courses, with public institutions seeing the greatest impact.
  • 76% of pubic institutions report increased demand for existing programs, compared to only 32% of private nonprofits.
  • 87% of public institutions say economic downturn has increased demand for their existing online courses and programs, 58% of nonprofits report increased demand
  • 45% of institutions that do not have any current online offerings report increased demand for new online courses and programs
  • 66% of institutions with online courses report increased demand for new online courses and programs
  • 73% of institutions with fully online programs report increased demand for new online courses and programs
Do faculty receive training to teach online?
  • Nearly one-fifth (19%) of all institutions do not provide any training (even informal mentoring) for their faculty teaching online courses.
  • Among those institutions that do have some form of training, most provide more than one approach:
    • Informal mentoring (59% of all institutions with online offerings)
    • Internally run training courses (65%)
    • Formal mentoring programs (40%)
    • Externally run training course (15%) 

No Significant Difference
What does research say about the effectiveness of distance learning as compared with the traditional classroom model? Since 1928, over 355 different research studies have been conducted and support the conclusion that "no significant difference" exists between the effectiveness of classroom education and distance learning. To read more about the "No Significant Difference" phenomenon, visit

K-12 Online Learning

  • 75% of responding public school districts are offering online or blended courses:
    • 75% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.
    • 70% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online course.
    • 41% had one or more students enrolled in a blended course.
    • These percentages represent an increase of approximately 10% since 2005-2006.
  • 66% of school districts with students enrolled in online or blended courses anticipate their online enrollments will grow.
  • The overall number of K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2007-2008, is estimated at 1,030,000. This represents a 47% increase since 2005-2006.
  • Respondents report that online learning is meeting the specific needs of a range of students, from those who need extra help and credit recovery to those who want to take Advanced Placement and college-level courses.
  • School districts typically depend on multiple online learning providers, including postsecondary institutions, state virtual schools and independent providers as well as developing and providing their own online courses.
  • Perhaps the voices heard most clearly in this survey were those of respondents representing small rural school districts. For them, the availability of online learning is a lifeline and enables them to provide students with course choices and in some cases, the basic courses that should be part of every curriculum.

Sample Online Courses

The following sample blended and online courses are shared to provide ideas for faculty.  Keep in mind that none of these courses are perfect and each reflects the unique characteristics of the course subject matter, technology available at the time of development, as well as the approach of the instructor. 
If you have a blended or online course that you'd like to share as an example for other faculty, email details to

Standards for Quality

Quality Matters
Quality Matters (QM) is a nationally recognized, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. Colleges and universities across the country use the tools in developing, maintaining and reviewing their online courses and in training their faculty.

Illinois Online Network Quality Online Course Initiative
Illinois Online Network (ION) and the Illinois Virtual Campus have taken the lead to develop a quality online course rubric and evaluation system in the state of Illinois. The goal of this project is to help colleges and universities to improve accountability of their online courses.  

Two versions of the rubric have been created. The first one is a complete rubric with checkboxes for evaluation and room for comments. The second version leaves out the evaluation marks or comments and serves only as a checklist for those wishing to design or redesign a course with these criteria in mind. The second version is much shorter in length and ranges from 7 to 8 pages; whereas, the complete rubric is approximately 25 pages long. The rubric and checklist are both available for download for free under Creative Commons.

Keys to Online Program Development Success

  • Full degree programs available online
  • Faculty-driven initiative; course development support
  • Constructivist, student-centered pedagogy
  • Tech support
  • Student support – program coordinators, online library, online tutoring
  • Integration of online teaching
  • Faculty experimentation, sharing, & scholarship
  • Technology (online) fee and e-tuition
  • Distributed ownership
  • Programs that meet the needs of adult learners
  • Emphasis on quality teaching
 (shared by Burks Oakley, UIS)

Rhode, J. F. (2010, Jun. 25). Online education: Past, present and future. Presented at the 2010 Assemblies of God Faculty Seminar, Springfield, MO.
Jason Rhode,
Jun 22, 2010, 9:33 AM
Jason Rhode,
Jun 22, 2010, 9:37 AM