Nov 2, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Based on new data from the Association for Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) and Learning House, a company that manages online programs for colleges and universities, online higher education programs are missing the boat on "mass market opportunities".

For example, many online higher ed students want credentials in computing, IT, health, and medicine, but online programs are pushing social sciences, criminal justice, and law. Also, most online students seek some sort of financial aid, but over half of the schools surveyed -- 57 percent -- do not offer scholarships.

ACHE and Learning House based their latest surveys on 116 individuals whose institutions are ACHE members.

Of those, 88 percent offer at least one completely online degree program. Eleven percent have hybrid programs, 42 percent offer master's programs, 31.5 percent offer bachelor's programs, and two percent offer associate's degrees. 

Sixty-nine percent of ACHE members with at least one online program lack degrees in STEM fields. Similarly, ten percent of online undergraduate students want arts and humanities programs, but 50 percent of the schools with online offerings don't offer them.

In the survey, most respondents cited two barriers to their online efforts. A whopping 71 percent said that their students required more discipline for success in online coursework, while 58 percent reported that their faculty needed to input more time and effort into their online courses.

Other challenges? The cost of course development, online delivery, and questions about rigor and intellectual property.

The report made several suggestions as schools progress with online learning. They recommend that they keep in mind students want and need financial assistance and flexibility. It also recommended offering additional support services for online students. The report also suggests intensive faculty training beyond the initial course design.

Learn more about online learning. 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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