Achieving Success in Internet-Supported Learning in Higher Education: Case Studies Illuminate Success Factors, Challenges, and Future Directions


A new report from the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness identifies degree programs as the single largest factor that determines whether a distance education program is successful. In preparing the report, "Achieving Success in Internet-Supported Learning in Higher Education," the group conducted a survey of 21 distance education programs it deemed successful. Among those schools, 89 percent offered online degrees rather than just online courses. "It's easier to measure the progress at a programmatic level," according to the report's author, Rob Abel, president of the alliance. "The programmatic approach also gets institutions thinking about student-support services," Abel continued. Among the institutions profiled in the study is the University of Florida, which currently has more than 6,000 students enrolled in distance education programs.According to William H. Riffee, associate provost for distance, continuing, and executive education at the university, the program was a response to growing numbers of students who wanted degrees from the university, which could not handle them all. Riffee attributes his school's success to its having scaled the program effectively. The report also identified the for-profit institution Westwood College as successful. Shaun McAlmont, president of Westwood College Online, credits some of the success to the agility of the for-profit educational industry, compared to traditional higher education, which he said is slow to change.

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