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For this study, distance education was defined as education or training courses delivered to remote (off-campus) locations via audio, video, or computer technologies. For purposes of this study, the following types of courses were not included: (1) courses conducted exclusively on campus, although some on-campus instruction might be involved in the courses that were included; (2) courses conducted exclusively via correspondence, although some instruction might be conducted through correspondence in the courses that were included; and (3) courses in which the instructor traveled to a remote site to deliver instruction in person.

The following institutional characteristics were used as variables for analyzing the survey data:

  • Type of institution: public 2-year, private 2-year, public 4- year, private 4-year. Type was created from a combination of level (2-year, 4-year) and control (public, private). Two-year institutions are defined as institutions at which the highest level of offerings is at least 2 but less than 4 years (below the baccalaureate degree); 4-year institutions are those at which the highest level of offering is 4 or more years (baccalaureate or higher degree).1 Private comprises private nonprofit and private for-profit institutions; these private institutions are reported together because there are too few private for-profit institutions in the sample for this survey to report them as a separate category.
  • Region: Northeast, Southeast, Central, and West, based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) definitions of region. The states in each region are as follows:

    • Northeast: Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

    • Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
    • Central: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
    • West: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Size of institution: less than 3,000 students (small); 3,000 to 9,999 students (medium); and 10, 000 or more students (large).

The survey was conducted in fall of 1995 by the National Center for Education Statistics using the Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS). PEQIS is designed to collect limited amounts of policy-relevant information on a quick turn-around basis from a previously recruited, nationally representative sample of postsecondary institutions. PEQIS surveys are generally limited to two to three pages of questions with a response burden of 30 minutes per respondent.2 The survey was mailed to the PEQIS survey coordinators at 1,276 2-year and 4-year higher education institutions.3 Coordinators were told that the survey was designed to be completed by the person(s) at the institution most knowledgeable about the institution’s distance education course offerings. The unweighted survey response rate was 94 percent (the weighted survey response rate was 96 percent). Data were adjusted for questionnaire nonresponse and weighted to provide national estimates. The section of this report on survey methodology and data reliability provides a more detailed discussion of the sample and survey methodology. The survey questionnaire is reproduced in appendix B.

All specific statements of comparisons made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through chi-square tests and t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment and are significant at the 95 percent confidence level or better. However, not all statistically different comparisons have been presented, since some were not of substantive importance.


1Definitions for level are from the data file documentation for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Institutional Characteristics file, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
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