Distance learning enrollment continues to outpace overall college enrollment numbers.

Distance-learning enrollment continues to grow faster than overall college enrollment numbers.

Distance-learning enrollment in American community colleges jumped by 22 percent during the 2008-09 academic year, an increase fueled in part by an influx of nontraditional students who require the flexibility of online courses, according to a survey conducted by the Instructional Technology Council (ITC).

The ITC, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), collected 226 responses from community colleges in its annual survey, “Trends in eLearning: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges,” which revealed the 2008-09 increase in online enrollment. Last year’s ITC survey reported an 11-percent uptick in web-based class enrollment at community colleges.

The survey also highlighted the closing gap in course completion rates among online learners, which traditionally has lagged behind that of traditional face-to-face students. Seventy-two percent of web-based community college students completed their class last year, compared with 76 percent of on-campus students.

More students and faculty are more willing to embrace online college classes as technology evolves and distance learning is enhanced by streaming audio and video, for example, but community college instructors said the unprecedented enrollment spike during the economic recession has forced decision makers to find ways to expand class sections.

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