Distance Education in IPEDS (2022)

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On this page, you will find information about how distance education (DE) is defined in IPEDS and which survey components collect data on DE courses and/or programs.

Click to read how to report DE given the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Distance Education in IPEDS (1)

Coronavirus Pandemic Guidance

The Coronavirus Pandemic has forced many institutions to provide remote instruction that would otherwise have been delivered

in-person. Please note that survey-specific guidance about how to report IPEDS data given the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic are provided within each survey form and instructions package.

In general, when reporting data on DE courses in IC, E12, and EF, institutions SHOULD include remote learning implemented in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. When reporting data on DE programs in IC and C, institutions SHOULD NOT include remote learning implemented in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic unless the program anticipates maintaining this modality permanently. Allowing program completion via DE is not the same as having planned full DE programs.

Distance Education in IPEDS (2)

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Defining Distance Education

What is distance education?

Distance education (DE) is education that uses one or more types of technology to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. The following types of technology may be used for distance instruction:

  • Internet;
  • Satellite or wireless communication; and
  • Audio and video conferencing

Distance Education in IPEDS (3)

Courses and programs are considered DE if ALL of their instructional portions can be completed remotely. Non-instructional in-person requirements (e.g., orientation and testing) do not exclude a course or program from being classified as exclusively DE:

Distance Education in IPEDS (4)

What constitutes a distance education program?

Distance Education in IPEDS (5)

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Distance Education in IPEDS

IPEDS collects data on DE in four survey components: Institutional Characteristics (IC), 12-month Enrollment (E12), Fall Enrollment (EF), and Completions (C).

Which survey components collect distance education data at the course and/or the program levels?

Distance Education in IPEDS (6)

How do IPEDS survey components collect distance education information?

Overview of DE data collection in IPEDS

Institutional Characteristics (IC)

The IC survey component includes two DE questions under Part C that capture (1) whether institutions offer DE courses and/or programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels; and (2) whether all programs offered are exclusively DE. The same questions appear for all institutions:

Distance Education in IPEDS (7)

Institutional Characteristics (IC) 22

The IC survey component serves as the first capture point for DE courses and programs in IPEDS. It includes two DE questions under Part C that capture (1) whether institutions offer DE courses and/or programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels; and (2) whether all programs offered are exclusively DE. The same questions appear for all institutions.

Institutions that report offering DE courses in the current data collection year on IC will also be expected to report fall enrollment and 12-month enrollment in the forthcoming EF and E12 surveys that correspond with that year. Institutions that report offering DE programs in the current data collection year on IC will also be expected to report DE program options by CIP in the forthcoming C survey that corresponds with that year.

For question 8 (“Are all the programs at your institution offered exclusively via distance education programs?”), institutions should NOT indicate “Yes” if their DE programs also have an in-person option.

Common Reporting Errors

  • Inconsistencies within IC: If an institution reports DE program offerings, it must also report DE course offerings. If an institution reports that all its programs are offered exclusively via DE (question 8), at least one checkbox under "Distance education courses" and "Distance education programs" should be marked in question 7.
  • Inconsistencies with E12, EF, and C: Responses to DE questions in the IC survey component should reflect what institutions report in the E12, EF, and C survey components. For example, if an institution reports DE course enrollment or DE program offerings in E12, EF, or C, they must indicate that they offer DE courses and/or programs in IC.
  • Inconsistencies across reporting years: Institutions will be asked to correct or explain their data if they report offering programs exclusively via DE in the current year but not the prior year (or vice versa).

12-month Enrollment (E12)

The E12 survey component includes one DE question under Part A that captures the number of students enrolled in the following DE categories over a 12-month period:

  • Enrolled exclusively in DE courses;
  • Enrolled in at least one, but not all, DE courses; and
  • Not enrolled in any DE courses.

This information is collected for undergraduate, graduate, degree/certificate-seeking, and non-degree/non-certificate-seeking students depending on the level (2-year or 4-year) and degree-granting status of the institution. Here is what the question looks like for a 4-year degree-granting institution:

Distance Education in IPEDS (8)

12-month Enrollment (E12)

The E12 survey component includes one DE question under Part A that captures the number of students enrolled in the following DE categories over a 12-month period:

  • Enrolled exclusively in DE courses;
  • Enrolled in at least one, but not all, DE courses; and
  • Not enrolled in any DE courses.

This information is collected for undergraduate, graduate, degree/certificate-seeking, and non-degree/non-certificate-seeking students depending on the level (2-year or 4-year) and degree-granting status of the institution.

The following diagram outlines the DE question in the E12 survey component:

Distance Education in IPEDS (9)

Common Reporting Errors

  • Inconsistencies within E12: The number of students enrolled in DE under each category should not exceed total enrollment for each category.
  • Inconsistencies with IC: If an institution reports in IC that courses can be completed entirely via DE in the prior data collection year, it should report DE course enrollments in E12 in the current data collection year. For example, if some courses at the undergraduate level are offered entirely via DE (as reported in IC), the number of undergraduate students enrolled in DE courses in E12 should be greater than zero. Otherwise, institutions will be asked to confirm or explain their data.
  • Inconsistencies with EF: The number of students enrolled exclusively in DE courses in the current year E12 survey should be equal to or greater than the number reported in the prior-year EF survey.

Fall Enrollment (EF)

The EF survey component includes two DE questions under Part A. The first question is structured much like the DE question in E12 and captures the number of students enrolled in the following DE categories in the fall term:

  • Enrolled exclusively in DE courses;
  • Enrolled in at least one, but not all, DE courses; and
  • Not enrolled in any DE courses.

The second question is applicable only for students enrolled exclusively in DE courses in the fall term. It captures the number of those DE students by location1:

  • Located in the same state/jurisdiction as the institution
  • Located in the U.S. but not in the same state/jurisdiction as the institution
  • Located in the U.S. but state/jurisdiction unknown
  • Located outside the U.S.
  • Location unknown/unreported

Both EF questions count undergraduate, graduate, degree/certificate-seeking, and non-degree/non-certificate-seeking students depending on the level (2-year or 4-year) and degree-granting status of the institution. Here is what the questions look like for a 4-year degree-granting institution:

Distance Education in IPEDS (10)

1 Location for students enrolled exclusively in distance education should be their physical location or current address, as of the institution’s fall reporting date. If this is not available, institutions should use the address on file for the student. For students enlisted in the military on active duty, the permanent address should be used instead of the student’s physical location. Students located in U.S. jurisdictions or territories (like Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands) while they are enrolled in distance education courses should be reported as located in the U.S.

Fall Enrollment (EF)

The EF survey component includes two DE questions under Part A. The first question is structured much like the DE question in the E12 survey component and captures the number of students enrolled in the following DE categories in the fall term:

  • Enrolled exclusively in DE courses;
  • Enrolled in at least one, but not all, DE courses; and
  • Not enrolled in any DE courses.

The second question is applicable only for students enrolled exclusively in DE courses in the fall term. It captures the number of DE-enrolled students by location1:

  • Located in the same state/jurisdiction as the institution
  • Located in the U.S. but not in the same state/jurisdiction as the institution
  • Located in the U.S. but state/jurisdiction unknown
  • Located outside the U.S.
  • Location unknown/unreported

Both EF questions count undergraduate, graduate, degree/certificate-seeking, and non-degree/non-certificate-seeking students depending on the level (2-year or 4-year) and degree-granting status of the institution:

The following diagram outlines the DE questions in the EF survey component:

Distance Education in IPEDS (11)

1 Location for students enrolled exclusively in distance education should be their physical location or current address, as of the institution’s fall reporting date. If this is not available, institutions should use the address on file for the student. For students enlisted in the military on active duty, the permanent address should be used instead of the student’s physical location. Students located in U.S. jurisdictions or territories (like Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands) while they are enrolled in distance education courses should be reported as located in the U.S.

Common Reporting Errors

  • Inconsistencies within EF: The number of students enrolled in DE under each category should not exceed total enrollment for each category. Additionally, users will be asked to correct or explain their data if all students enrolled in DE are reported under the same location category or if the number of students reported under ‘Location unknown/unreported’ is greater than zero.
  • Inconsistencies with IC: If an institution reports in the current data collection year IC that courses can be completed entirely via DE, it should report DE course enrollments in the current data collection year EF. For example, if some courses at the undergraduate level are offered entirely via DE (as reported in IC), the number of undergraduate students enrolled in DE courses in EF should be greater than zero. Otherwise, institutions will be asked to confirm or explain their data.

Completions (C)

The C survey component includes one DE question on the CIP data screen that captures whether all, some, or none of the programs within each CIP code and award level can be completed entirely via DE. The C DE question does NOT capture the number of students who completed a program via DE. Instead, it captures information on whether it is possible for students to complete programs via DE by CIP code, adding further differentiation to the DE program questions in the IC survey component.

The same question appears for all institutions:

Distance Education in IPEDS (12)

Completions (C)

The C survey component includes one DE question on the CIP data screen that captures whether all, some, or none of the programs within each CIP code and award level can be completed entirely via DE. The C DE question does NOT capture the number of students who completed a program via DE. Instead, it captures information on whether it is possible for students to complete programs via DE by CIP code, adding further differentiation to the DE program questions in IC. The same question appears for all institutions.

The following diagram outlines the DE question in the C survey component

The same question appears for all institutions:

Distance Education in IPEDS (13)

Common Reporting Errors

  • Inconsistencies with IC: If an institution reports in the prior data collection year IC that programs can be completed entirely via DE, these program offerings should be reported in the current data collection year C survey component as well. For example, if an institution reported that some programs are offered exclusively via DE in IC, programs in at least one CIP code must be reported as being able to be completed exclusively via DE in the C survey component.
Survey
component
Collection periodData coverage
period
DE coursesDE programsResponse type(s)Data collectedNotes/
Guidance
Common
reporting errors

Institutional Characteristics
(IC)

Click to view IC survey sample

FallCurrent academic yearYesYesMultiple choice/checkboxCaptures whether institutions offer DE courses and/or programs for undergraduate and graduate students and whether all programs are offered exclusively via DE

Distance Education in IPEDS (14)

Click to view IC notes

Distance Education in IPEDS (15)

Click to view IC common reporting errors

12-month Enrollment
(E12)

Click to view E12 survey sample

FallJuly 1-June 30 (prior year)YesNoStudent countsCaptures the number of students enrolled in DE courses over 12-month period

Distance Education in IPEDS (16)

Click to view E12 notes

Distance Education in IPEDS (17)

Click to view E12 common reporting errors

Fall Enrollment
(EF)

Click to view EF survey sample

SpringInstitutions' official fall reporting periodsYesNoStudent countsCaptures the number of students enrolled in DE courses in the fall term and, of the students enrolled exclusively via DE, the number located in various geographic categories

Distance Education in IPEDS (18)

Click to view EF notes

Distance Education in IPEDS (19)

Click to view EF common reporting errors

Completions
(C)

Click to view C survey sample

FallJuly 1-June 30 (prior year)NoYesMultiple choiceCaptures whether all, some, or none of the programs within each CIP code and award level can be completed entirely via DE.

Distance Education in IPEDS (20)

Click to view C notes

Distance Education in IPEDS (21)

Click to view C common reporting errors

How is distance education reporting integrated across IPEDS surveys?

IC data are the foundation of the entire IPEDS system. If DE course offerings are reported in IC, DE course enrollments should be reported in E12 and EF. Similarly, if DE program offerings are reported in IC, they should also be reported in C. Data submitters will receive error messages asking them to correct or explain their submission if DE data seem inconsistent between surveys or differ substantially with prior-year reporting.

Click on the graphic to view more detail on connections between surveys.

Distance Education in IPEDS (22)

How are distance education data used?

  • Data on DE courses and programs provide researchers and policymakers with more accurate information about higher education opportunities. Stakeholders and researchers can reference data on DE courses and programs through the Digest of Education Statistics and the IPEDS Trend Generator.
  • Data collected on DE course and program offerings also allow institutions to compare their DE activities with those of their peers through an IPEDS Data Feedback Report.
  • Perhaps most importantly, College Navigator provides valuable consumer information to students and parents by featuring information on DE enrollment and DE program offerings.

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