April 14, 2016

New Report: Internet Access and Distance Learning in Higher Education

Online college courses are becoming an increasingly popular option for adults wishing to pursue a postsecondary degree, and states have embraced the “distance learning” trend as a way to meet education attainment goals. 

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) explores this topic in its recently released “trends report:” Broadband access and implications for efforts to address equity gaps in postsecondary attainment.  The report notes that more than a quarter of all college students take some classes online, and 13% of such students complete all required coursework online.  ECS points out two obstacles states must overcome to promote this educational avenue: (1) increasing access to adequate Internet broadband speeds and (2) funding the purchase and maintenance of available broadband. 

The report provides an overview of these two challenges and provides key questions for legislators to consider should they seek to expand access to online distance learning courses.