Myth or reality? The "distance" in distance education means something?
Ummm, no, it doesn't! At least not for the vast majority of e-learners. The GIS map above shows the geographic distribution of 98% of the e-learners for LSC Online in the fall semester 2005. The other 2% (corrected 9/25/07) came from other places besides Minnesota and Wisconsin. About 50% of the students indicated on the map (probably more) could not have easily attended LSC by coming to campus since they are more than 30 miles away.
So, that makes it sound like there really is something to this distance thing, right? Wrong. When you ask these students (as we have) why they signed up for online courses they do not indicate distance as a leading reason. In fact, it comes out quite far from the top. We have seen this data collected using two different instruments. The Noel-Levitz PSOL includes ten "factors to enroll" for students to rank how important the factor was in their decision-making to enroll online. "Distance from Campus" comes in ninth out of ten factors, and a distant ninth at that.
We also ask students to submit surveys each year that allows us to keep abreast of changes in the demographics of our online learners at LSC. 61% indicate the number one reason for taking online courses is the need for time flexibility and busy schedules. Even "online courses are a better fit for my preferred learning style" (10.7%) is a more popular reason than distance from campus (6.7%). Even those who live more than 100 miles from LSC do not choose distance as an important factor - in other words, they'll find it somewhere else if not from us.
Apparently we need to come up with a more descriptive term than "distance ed."