Fourth Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) Report from Quality Matters and Eduventures® Research Shows How Online Modality Is Reshaping Higher Education

CHLOE 4 Finds More Institutions with Chief Online Officers, but Online Orientation for Students Still Uncommon

In its fourth year, the Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) Survey — a survey of Chief Online Officers (COOs) — continued to expand, with 367 U.S. colleges and universities responding, including public, private and for-profit institutions. That represents a 31% increase from CHLOE 3.

As this research is being released, continuity of instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic is at the forefront. Many are turning to remote instruction without adequate planning and infrastructure. While online learning teams are rising to the occasion with rapid response — clear evidence that the modality is mainstream in higher education — expectations of what the modality can achieve under these emergency circumstances should be tempered. Facilitating communication regarding end-of-term course requirements should be the goal. The CHLOE 5 survey will include questions regarding continuity of instruction during the COVID-19 crisis.

The latest results — available in the report CHLOE 4: Navigating the Mainstream — reflect how institutions have embraced online learning as well as the range of approaches they take to move online learning from the periphery to the mainstream, institution by institution.

“The CHLOE partnership between Quality Matters and Eduventures Research was founded in 2016 on the belief that online learning was transitioning from an experimental phase to a mainstream component of postsecondary education in the U.S.,” said Ron Legon, QM Executive Director Emeritus and co-lead of the CHLOE project. “The CHLOE reports, drawing on the knowledge and observations of the online officers who manage online activity at their institutions, are making a major contribution to understanding this phenomenon in detail and how it is changing higher education.”

According to Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer for Eduventures® Research, a division of ACT | NRCCUA, and co-lead of the project, “CHLOE helps illuminate how the modality, in diverse forms, is reshaping higher education, and how institutions, and their online leaders, are creatively adapting online education to better serve students, old and new.”

Additional key findings include: 

  • Growth of COO Position — Prior to 2000, only 15% of CHLOE 4 participating institutions had a COO role. Today, 100% of responding institutions do, with five out of eight positions developed in the past decade. Additionally, 60% of COOs report that their roles are expanding.
  • Faculty Preparation — Required preparation of faculty members to teach online was reported by 60% of respondents.
  • OPM Partnerships — OPM partnerships have doubled since 2017 – from 12% to 24%.
  • Support Services — Support services for online learners are largely handled by units that also serve the on-campus population. Some services such as student recruitment, orientation and advising are more likely to be separately administered for online students.
  • Online Orientation — Online student orientation is surprisingly uncommon with only 30% of respondents reporting that it is required at their institution.

“We believe that the CHLOE Report is important to everyone who is striving for quality in their online offerings,” shared Whitney Kilgore, Chief Academic Officer at iDesign, CHLOE 4’s platinum sponsor. “This year’s report provides critical insights into key elements of online learning, including course design, engagement strategies and accessibility.”


CHLOE 4 also expanded the institutional models of online learning, adding a sixth model — Flagship — comprised of the leading 4-year public universities, with research and public service roles, as designed by their home states and recognized by the Association of American Universities, with fewer than 7,500 fully and partly online students. Twenty out of the 60 flagship schools in the U.S. are represented in the CHLOE Report.

Eric E. Fredericksen, Contributing Editor of CHLOE, and Associate Vice President of Online Learning at the University of Rochester, acknowledged the important role of his colleagues. “The CHLOE team is grateful to the Chief Online Officers at our colleges and universities for their contribution to this research effort. This study is essential to our understanding of an area that is vital to most higher education institutions in the United States.”

This report was made possible through the partnership of QM and Eduventures Research — the research division of ACT® | NRCCUA® — and the support of sponsors iDesign, ExtensionEngine and Instructional Connections. To download the report, visit the Quality Matters website or the Eduventures Research website.

The co-authors of the report, Ron Legon for Quality Matters and Richard Garrett for Eduventures Research, are available for comment:

Ron Legon, Ph.D., Executive Director Emeritus, Quality Matters ([email protected]; 312.545.2325)

Richard Garrett, Eduventures Chief Research Officer, ACT | NRCCUA ([email protected]; 617.704.8481)

Eric Fredericksen, Ed.D., Associate Vice President for Online Learning and Associate Professor, University of Rochester ([email protected]; 585.273.1714)

About Quality Matters 
Quality Matters (QM) is the global organization leading quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. It provides a scalable quality assurance system for online and blended learning used within and across organizations. When you see QM Certification Marks on courses or programs, it means they have met QM Course Design Standards or QM Program Review Criteria in a rigorous review process.

Now part of ACT, The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ is an educational data science and research organization serving over 2,000 member institutions comprised of public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit

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“CHLOE helps illuminate how the modality, in diverse forms, is reshaping higher education, and how institutions, and their online leaders, are creatively adapting online education to better serve students, old and new.”