By Phil Hill
In response to the new distance education (roughly equivalent to online education) data released by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), I have written a series of posts showing different ways to view the data. In short, the data allows much greater insight into degree-granting online higher education in the US than we previously had. WCET also has a series of posts worth exploring.
One post in particular listed the top 20 institutions in terms of how many students take at least one online course, broken down by sector. The list for public 4-year showed the following (undergrad + grad, # students taking at least one online course in Fall 2012):
Two schools, upon viewing this data, have discovered that their data provided to the IPEDS database was incorrect.
University of Central Florida
Thomas Cavanaugh from UCF was a little surprised to see his school listed with 21,782 students online when his group’s internal data showed higher numbers. For context, UCF has had one of the most proactive and strategic approaches to online education of any R1 university, including mandatory training and quality assurance standards for any course offered online or in hybrid format. What Cavanaugh and team discovered was that the school was not reporting every category of course that is actually considered distance education. UCF defines their modalities in five categories:
World Wide Web (W) — courses conducted via web-based instruction and collaboration. Some courses may require minimal campus attendance or in-person/proctored examinations.
Video Streaming (V) — courses delivered over the web via streaming digital video which may be supplemented by additional Web activity, projects or exams.
Video Streaming/ Reduced Seat Time (RV) — classroom-based content is available over the web via streaming video and classroom attendance is not required. Other required activities that substitute for video instruction may include any of the following elements: web activity, in-person or proctored examinations, and labs. See course notes for details.
Mixed Mode/Reduced Seat Time (M) — courses include both required classroom attendance and online instruction. Classes have substantial activity conducted over the web, which substitutes for some classroom meetings.
Face To Face Instruction (P) — courses have required classroom attendance and meet on a regularly scheduled basis. Students may encounter internet and/or computer requirements in these classes.
Meanwhile, the official IPEDS definitions:
Distance education – Education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.
Technologies used for instruction may include the following: Internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcasts, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite or wireless communication devices; audio conferencing; and video cassette, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassette, DVDs, and CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with the technologies listed above.
Distance education course – A course in which the instructional content is delivered exclusively via distance education. Requirements for coming to campus for orientation, testing, or academic support services do not exclude a course from being classified as distance education.
The mistake made at UCF was that the Video Streaming categories (V and RV) were originally noted reported to IPEDS as distance education. You can see that V and RV categories deliver instructional content exclusively via “one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously.” UCF has since sent corrections to NCES.
The results is that UCF moves from 21,782 students taking at least one online course to 28,954 (this may change slightly due to definition of census date), which is a 33% change.
Several readers were, like me, surprised to see Temple University with such a high rate of online courses (35,248 or 96% of all students taking at least one online course), when the school does not the reputation for offering online courses and the web site does not emphasize online.
I contacted the school’s Institutional Research and Assessment group to ask for clarifications, and it turns out they also discovered that their IPEDS reporting data was incorrect – but in the opposite direction from UCF. In their case, Temple appears to just made a mistake in entering the data due to new reporting standards and survey overload. According to my contact, one of the issues is that IPEDS notifies a school if there are any anomalies in the reported data, but the distance education reporting is brand new. The mistake was not caught until the public blogging of data.
The results is that Temple University moves from 35,248 students taking at least one online course to 1,809, which is a 95% change. Temple has graciously sent corrections to NCES.
Value of Open Data
I’d like to point out the value of Open Data in this case, as the public reporting and public blogging of data is leading to transparency of the data and reporting process as well as improvements in the data. This would not have happened using previous methods of surveys with closed data.
I’d also like to thank UCF and Temple personnel for their openness in noticing, correcting, and describing data entry mistakes. They provide excellent examples for other schools.
Changes in Top 20
I am not sure what the IPEDS process is to update the database based on corrections, so the resultant changes reported below will not match official records for a while (in other words, you read it here first at e-Literate). NOTE: I have also revised the view to focus just on degree or certificate-seeking students, so there are some other changes as well.
Top 20 US Public 4-year Institutions by Online Enrollment (Revised)Listing of Top 20 US public 4-year institutions Fall 2012 online education enrollment for combined undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate-seeking students, per IPEDS
|Rank||Institution||Total Students Taking At Least One Online Course||Percentage||Total Students|
|1||University of Maryland-University College||41,357||100%||41,457|
|2||Arizona State University||36,050||49%||73,179|
|3||University of Central Florida||28,954||49%||59,212|
|4||Florida International University||24,403||54%||44,940|
|5||University of Florida||22,773||46%||49,160|
|6||Thomas Edison State College||20,456||99%||20,606|
|7||University of South Florida-Main Campus||16,113||40%||40,459|
|9||St Petersburg College||15,044||55%||27,574|
|10||Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus||13,128||29%||45,138|
|11||Northern Arizona University||12,478||48%||25,850|
|13||College of Southern Nevada||11,867||39%||30,787|
|14||Middle Tennessee State University||11,379||45%||25,144|
|15||University of North Texas||11,259||30%||37,950|
|16||University of Houston||10,809||28%||39,303|
|17||Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis||10,534||36%||29,559|
|18||Florida State College at Jacksonville||10,336||39%||26,634|
|19||University of Arizona||10,316||26%||39,875|
|20||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||10,085||31%||32,798|