The number of online-only programs and programs offered at universities across the country is continuing to rise as more schools begin offering classes online and the demand for online courses is on the rise.
Online courses have been embraced by more and more institutions to cater to an increasingly diverse student population, and many are seeing an uptick in enrollment, particularly from the most economically disadvantaged students.
According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), enrollment at more than 10,000 public and private colleges and universities rose from 2.8 million in 2015 to 4.7 million in 2016.
The number is expected to rise again to 5.5 million by 2020.
The average amount of credits a student receives in a course online, which is used to earn credit for the program, is now nearly twice the amount they receive in a traditional class.
While the number of courses offered online at some institutions has been steadily increasing, others are seeing more students take advantage of these programs.
In March, for example, more than 2,600 online-focused programs and schools were offered at 11,000 institutions nationwide, according to a report from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Some of these online-based programs are providing students with the opportunity to complete their degree in less than 12 weeks.
However, as the demand has risen, many institutions are seeing the need for more space in their libraries and classrooms to accommodate these classes.
In a 2016 report from NACES, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the number and type of library spaces increased by 17 percent in the past year and 20 percent by 2021, while the number in the building itself declined by 7 percent.
In a 2017 report from CAPE, the Council of the National Accreditation of Colleges and Schools, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and the Association for Computing Machinery, online-oriented learning programs have been seen as a valuable tool to increase student retention and retention rates.
The report found that of the 4 million college and university students who took the first steps toward completing a degree, more would have taken online classes had they not taken them.