- Robert Atkins, Chief Executive Officer of Gray Associates, told Education Dive in an email that the firm's analysis of higher ed "inquiry data indicate strong interest in online programs, while demand for campus programs continues to fall."
- The conclusions were drawn from an analysis of google keyword search and student inquiry data, which found a 21% increase in searches for online programs over 2016, but a 10% decrease for on-campus programs.
- Atkins cautioned that "if enrollment growth resumes, it will probably look different than before, and academic leaders should adjust their strategies accordingly."
When MOOCs hit the scene in 2011, they were expected to take over higher ed and lead to the end of the industry as we know it. And while we haven't seen the "massive" enrollment some projected, they have left their mark on higher education. As the profile of the traditional student evolves to represent students who are older, often have work experience already, often have families and generally demand more flexibility and easier access to content, online programs are not just an attractive thing for institutions to offer, they are essential to higher ed's survival.
According to the Gray Associates data, searches for medical assistants and MBAs were most prevalent, suggesting a strong desire to tie academic programs to potential employment opportunities. And with a majority of Republicans of all education levels saying the single most important function of higher ed is to provide students with specific skills which will translate into productivity in the workforce, it is worth taking note of the shift away from a value placed on creating thoughtful global citizens towards a value on producing people who can immediately go out and work and earn a living. This much is also evident in the growing emphasis on shortening time-to-degree, just as higher ed insiders were starting to suggest students should spend more time in college to build in more experiential learning, like travel abroad and multiple internships.