The second part of the iron triangle used to build the Online Education 2025 Strategic plan was access. For this part of the plan, the Committee pulled actual online enrollment numbers for distance learning classes and the numbers of projected enrollment from the Universities workplans to develop an aggressive growth model for distance education in Florida. Based upon the projection model, the overall expected enrollment in 2024-25 potential could be 3.48 million in seat count at the undergraduate level. This translates into 86,900 FTE undergraduate enrollment in the state. Enrollment in the graduate programs is expect to double based upon the projected numbers in the universities’ workplan enrollment 616 million seats in 2024-25. To meet these expectations, the enrollments would need to come from both on-campus or near-campus students, who are blending the online courses with on-ground coursework, with those students, who enroll in exclusively online programs.
The 2025 plan goals for the access are fairly straightforward. First, to increase access to and participation in online education across the state. Second, to create an environment favorable to the growth of online education. Third, to harness the power of online education to help meet the economic development needs of the state.
The strategies to meet those goals involve the use of different resources and vary across the strategies. First, the state will need to increase the range of fully online programs offered in most Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes and to establish an inventory of programs and courses available. Included in those program offerings will be accelerated programs and affordable, high-quality baccalaureate degree programs by UF Online. Marketing was recommended to build awareness of online programs. Students would receive full robust student support services. Strategies were added to explore ways to decrease the course development costs and to secure resources for students who may not have adequate technology. Finally, to work with employers to identify unmet continuing educational needs in the region.
For the strategies to work, changes need to be made in the regulatory environment as well. Below are those suggested by the Committee:
- The 9 required summer hour credit hours may be fulfilled by taking online courses
- Exclude enrollments in online degree programs from the limitation on the percentage on non-resident students in the system
- Provide flexibility for universities to eliminate the non-resident fee for online students who live out-of-state
- Modify regulations related to instructional material fees to allow the adoption of new approaches to providing digital educational materials to students.
The plan calls for 75% of undergraduate students across the SUS to be enrolled in one or more online courses each year. The percentage of graduate students enrolled in one or more online course each year is 50%. Finally, 60% of the academic degree programs listed in the Board of Governors Academic Program Inventory will have at least one major offered fully online from each CIP code.
FAU is currently evaluating how the institution can assist the State in meeting the projected increases in enrollment. Currently, just over 13,000 students in both the graduate and undergraduate programs are taking at least one online course, which is approximately one-third of our student population. To reach 75% of the undergraduate student body taking at least one online course, 18,171 students should be enrolling in an online course. At the graduate level, 2,296 students taking an online classes is required to reach the 50% goal. A small portion of our degrees are available online. This year, FAU has 9 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees fully online. In addition to fully online programs, FAU has an additional 10 graduate programs which are 50% or more online. FAU can grow the online participation substantially in support of the state goals.