According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2000 and 2008, the percentage of undergraduate students taking at least one online class grew from 8 to 20 percent.2 The Sloan Consortium states that approximately 5.6 million students enrolled in at least one online course during fall 2009, and nearly thirty percent of all higher education students now take at least one course online.3 Clearly, the percentage of students taking one or more courses online is trending upwards, reflecting an increased reliance on the flexibility they afford.
Juxtapose these online learning growth trends with the following statistics: of the 17.6 million undergraduates currently enrolled in American higher education, only 15 percent attend four-year institutions and live on campus. Thirty-seven percent are enrolled part time and 32 percent work full time. Only 36 percent of students who are enrolled in four-year institutions actually graduate in four years.4
What these statistics indicate is a blurring boundary between the traditional and nontraditional. Even classically traditional students at classically traditional institutions increasingly require nontraditional flexibility to meet their educational goals. Online learning has become the catalyst for this change and it is forever altering the landscape of higher education.