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It’s official—the total number of students enrolled in at least one online course has now surpassed 6.7 million. According to the 2012 survey report Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, the number of online students has steadily increased from 2002 to 2012. Produced by the Babson Survey Research Group, the definitive report has become the leading barometer of online learning in the United States.

The following 10 facts about online education, a form of distance learning, will give you a better understanding of this growing phenomenon and, perhaps, help you decide if attending an online university is right for you.

  1. The quality of accredited online degree programs is equal to or better than face-to-face education. 77% of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face education, up from 57.2% in 2002.*

  2. There is now a wider selection of online degree programs. An impressive 62.4% of higher education institutions have evolved from offering only online courses to providing complete online degrees, representing a dramatic increase from 34.5% in 2002.*

  3. A new high of 69.1% of chief academic leaders now say that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy, up from less than 50% in 2002.*

  4. Studying online offers students:
    • The flexibility to balance work, family, and school
    • The ability to study anytime, anywhere 24/7
    • Access to accelerated, fast-track courses
    • A cheaper option than on-campus courses
    • Faster time to completion
    • A variety of online courses and degree programs
    • Greater opportunity to earn specific educational credentials
    • An effective way to learn compared to a traditional college setting
  5. Career advancement is a top motivator for online students. 46% of students say that their primary motivation for enrolling in online courses and degree programs is to advance their careers. Online degree programs provide the flexibility, affordability, and convenience working students need to successfully balance the demands of work, family, and education.

  6. Graduates of online degree programs can earn up to $84,000 annually, and 29% earn $85,000–$150,000 annually.

  7. An online university can provide an international perspective. Online coursework provides many opportunities for students to connect, collaborate, and exchange ideas with fellow students from diverse cultures around the world. The international reach of online degree programs exposes students to an incredible depth of knowledge and insights on an international scale that is certain to enrich their college experience.

  8. More than 80% of online undergraduate students have transfer credits from previous college courses that can be applied to their degree requirements. Transfer credits help accelerate degree completion.

  9. Online degree programs give students transferrable credit for work, life, and military experience when it is relevant to the degree. Transferred credits from all acceptable sources can meet up to 75% of the requirements for a bachelor’s degree, and up to 50% for a graduate degree. For details, visit Walden’s Center for Degree Acceleration.

  10. 33% of online students study business. To meet this growing demand, Walden University offers 32 online business degrees, including:

    • 7 bachelor’s degree programs, such as BS in Business Administration, BS in Accounting, and BS in Healthcare Management

    • 11 master’s degree programs, such as MS in Marketing, MS in Healthcare Administration, and MS in Management

    • 3 doctoral programs in business administration, management, and public policy and administration

    • 11 graduate and post-doctoral certificate programs

Learn more about Walden University’s accredited online bachelor’s degree programs, master’s degree programs, doctoral degree programs, and certificate programs in 10 areas of study from business and management to social work and human services.

Walden University, an accredited institution, has been serving the higher education needs of adult learners for 45 years. Today, more than 47,800 students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degrees, or certificates online at Walden.

Explore Walden University's online degrees and specialized certificate programs that fit your career goals. Earn your degree at a pace that fits your life and schedule.

*Babson Survey Research Group, “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” on the Internet at (viewed online May 7, 2015).

†, “41 Surprising Facts About Online Students,” on the Internet at (viewed online May 7, 2015).

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