The latest effort to increase oversight of the rapidly growing online education industry hit a wall this month when a federal court struck down a new U.S. Department of Education regulation that would have required schools to register in every state where they have students.
The decision comes as online and distance learning jumped 150 percent in Ohio since 2004 to more than 93,000 students; nationwide 4.3 million students take at least one online course, according to federal and state data.
Much of this growth has been fueled by schools like Kaplan, which operates in 20 states and 30 countries, and the University of Phoenix, which too has a global footprint. Traditional schools like Miami University and Sinclair Community College also are offering more Web-based courses.
Supporters see online education as a way to give more students access to college but the effectiveness and rigor of online courses has been debated by experts.
A U.S. Department of Education analysis found online classes can be superior for some students while another study by the Community College Research Center, an advocate for two-year colleges, found students who took online courses were more likely to fail or drop out than students taking similar classes in traditional classrooms.
Ohio and other states have little oversight of schools located outside state boundaries.