EDUCAUSE Policy Topic: E-Learning

E-Learning and the policy issues that affect it have moved to the forefront of higher education. As policy-makers consider how to dramatically increase the percentage of the population with a postsecondary degree or credential within significant, long-term resource constraints, online and blended learning options dominate the discourse. And rapid enrollment growth in e-learning courses and programs signals that students and the public at large also see online and blended options as increasingly attractive.

However, survey research indicates that students and the public have lingering concerns about quality, particularly in relation to fully online courses and programs. Likewise, rising student debt levels and concerns about default rates and actual post-graduation employment prospects—especially in relation to for-profit institutions heavily invested in online learning and heavily dependent on federal student aid for their revenue—have drawn negative attention to e-learning generally. These issues have led to regulatory actions and legislative proposals to tighten programmatic and institutional accountability, which in turn has generated community response and legislative proposals to counter governmental overreach into academic and institutional affairs.

EDUCAUSE engages in this policy space to clarify such developments for its members and the overall higher education community, as well as to ensure that policy discussions reflect the realities of e-learning's progress and potential. Similarly, we highlight the implications of legislative and regulatory efforts for the actual development and practice of e-learning, seeking to inform policy-makers on where their efforts may support, or hinder, the ability of e-learning to meet the nation's postsecondary education needs.