Georgia Distance Learning Numbers Increase Dramatically; More Statewide Have Internet Access, According to Georgia GLOBE Research

December 12, 2001

These are the findings of recent distance education figures released by the University System of Georgia and of market research conducted by Georgia GLOBE (Global Learning Online for Business & Education), which aggregates and markets distance learning opportunities and services available through the USG’s 34 institutions.

The rise in the interest of online learning is evident in some real numbers posted over the past two years in the University System. In fiscal year 2000, USG numbers indicate enrollment in distance education courses system-wide was 20,245, representing a total of 59,593 credit hours taken. In FY 2001, the enrollment increased to 32,234 (a one-year jump of more than 59%) with 94,531 credit hours taken.

Those jumps in numbers occurred as more Georgians than ever became connected to the Internet, according to the most recent Georgia GLOBE surveys of 500 Georgia registered voters, randomly selected from voter registration lists and stratified to represent the state’s population both geographically and demographically.

In September 1999, Georgia GLOBE’s survey revealed that 65% of respondents had Internet access from home, work or both. In February 2000, the percentage responding positively rose to 68%, and the number jumped to 74% in research conducted in January of this year. Georgia GLOBE’s most recent survey, conducted in late September, indicates that 78% of Georgians now have access from home, work or both. The most significant change from the January numbers occurred in the “access at home” category, where 32% of respondents indicated they are wired at home, up from 26% just eight months earlier.

Other statistical trends indicate the so-called “digital divide” may be closing rapidly. While 87% of Atlantans have Internet access (an all-time high), the residents of north, middle and south Georgia report 65-76% access – significant increases from all previous surveys. Urban and rural residents with Internet access increased to 70-72% but still trail suburban residents at 86%. And although there once was a “gender gap” in terms of Internet access (78% of males responded positively in the January survey, compared to 71% of females), the most recent survey indicates a seven percent rise in access for Georgia females.

Of particular interest to Georgia GLOBE were impressive number increases in categories specifically related to distance learning. The latest results reveal that 59% of Georgians have heard that college credit, degrees, certificates and non-credit professional development courses are offered on the Internet by the USG’s 34 institutions, up from 51% eight months earlier. Moreover, some 12% of respondents who live in urban areas indicated they have actually taken a class or course online, a 100% increase in just eight months. And the jump in online participation is consistent in all age groups, as indicated by the fact that some six percent of respondents 60 years or older say they have taken a class or course online, triple the amount from the January survey.

Since its inception two years ago, Georgia GLOBE has been tracking market research conducted periodically by the Schapiro Research Group through its Georgia Legislative Poll. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is 4.5 percentage points. The Georgia GLOBE research numbers are consistent with many national trends in Internet usage as reported by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The Project creates and funds original research that explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care, and civic/political life. The organization’s results are based on data captured via extensive telephone surveying conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in 2000 and 2001.

Pew studies indicated the number of American adults with Internet access grew from about 88 million to more than 104 million in the second half of 2000. Seventy-five percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 have Internet access, compared to 15% of those 65 and over. As in Georgia, however, the increase among senior citizens nationwide was healthy, up from 12% six months earlier.

The significance of distance learning is clearly illustrated by the Pew finding that on any given day, one percent of Internet users — or about 1 million adults — are taking a class online. Some impressive numbers illustrate the Internet’s effect on the area of education as a whole. Some 94% of those who have used the Internet say they have done so for school research, and 71% say they used the Internet as the major source for their most recent school project or report.

Georgia GLOBE’s own internal tracking numbers paint an even more detailed picture of the interest in online education within the state. In a recent 122-day period, nearly 1,500 individual inquiries were received at Georgia GLOBE via telephone or email from across the United States and around the world. The vast majority (76%) originated from within Georgia and 122 of the state’s 159 counties were represented.