Regents report: Almost half of all Kansas college students taking ‘distance’ classes

More than 45 percent of students enrolled at Kansas institutions of higher learning are taking at least one class from a distance, according to a new Board of Regents report.

On Thursday, Regents vice president of academic affairs Gary Alexander presented the board with this year’s annual report for the Regents Distance Education Plan.

It showed that distance education is widespread at Kansas schools and growing.

At least for Regents schools, that’s not at the expense of quality, Alexander said.

“It’s becoming a more strategic, more sophisticated process,” he said. “Our schools know what they’re doing, and they do it well … there is commitment to quality, not just slapping programs up and trying to benefit from that.”

The Regents define distance education as courses in which faculty and students are “separated in place or time.”

The report separates distance education (courses and programs that blend face-to-face with distance learning) from online education (courses and programs offered wholly online).

According to the report, based on data from the 2013-2014 school year:

• Of 252,408 students enrolled, 45.3 percent took at least one distance education course and 43.1 percent took at least one all-online course.

• Statewide, schools offered 491 distance education programs. That represents 19.5 percent of all academic programs offered, a slight increase from 18.8 percent in 2012-2013.

• Community colleges offered the most distance education programs, with 305, representing 30.5 percent of their total programs. Following were state universities with 153 (13.8 percent), Washburn University with 21 (16 percent) and technical colleges with 12 (4.2 percent).

• Distance education degrees and certificates accounted for 35 percent of all awarded, with a total of 15,490 awarded in 2014. That’s the same percentage as 2011, although the number of distance education degrees and certificates awarded in 2011 was 13,599.

• The three most popular distance education programs statewide, based on enrollment, are liberal arts and sciences, administrative assistant and secretarial science, and child care and support services management.

All the Kansas state schools offer degree or degree completion programs through distance learning or fully online, according to the report.

KU established its Center for Online and Distance Learning in 2011. The office focuses on hybrid, online and distance teaching and learning.

KU’s School of Education has been a leader in establishing online courses, and the School of Business is rolling out a fully online Master of Business Administration program this fall, to name a few initiatives.

Also this year, KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences appointed an associate dean for online and professional education to coordinate distance and online offerings there.