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Demographics of Your Online Students

May 4, 2009

I was recently reading National Online Learners Priorities Report by Noel-Levitz, a private company that specializes in “enrollment and student success.”

The report included some data about demographics of over 68,453 students from 87 institutions. Some of the data indicates results that are tipping the scales in several categories, such as:

  • 68% of the respondents were female
  • 82% of the respondents were 25 and older
  • 83% were completing their education “primarily online”

Many administrators and instructors will be thoroughly surprised by these skewed results. However, national results are often misleading. Looking at the enrollments from our university partners, I recognize some commonalities with this data – but it doesn’t apply to every institution we work with. At one school, the majority of the students are women in their 40s returning to complete undergraduate degrees. Most are parents, often times single. However, those numbers are radically different compared to the population we see through another college partner.

While it’s enlightening to see national trends, as we do in the National Online Learners Priorities Report , it is important for each school to assess who their predominant learners are – in each program.

At Abromitis Online Learning, we provide courses and programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Certainly, we cannot compare the population of undergraduate math students to that of practicing teachers taking a Teaching with Technology Certificate program.

Demographics are very important to assess who the learners are in each program. Take interest in national trends, but look closely at the numbers in each program in order to make sure you are addressing the needs of your students. If you are working with online learning providers like us, be certain to provide data to them on who your learners are. Discuss how course development differs for different demographics. Remember, you are partners in providing the best education for your students. To achieve that, you must be educated as to who your students are.

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