The 2011 Survey of Online Learning reveals that the number of students nationwide taking at least one online course in the fall 2010 term surpassed 6 million. Nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.

The latest Bay Area development is free online classes offered by University Now, a San Francisco-based company, subsidized by employers in Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento.

Key report findings include:

More than 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.

The 10 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2 percent growth in the overall higher education student population.

Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.

Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most are growing.

Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.

Sixty-five percent of higher education institutions say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.

A consistent minority of academic leaders continues to be concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.

The full report is available at www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/highered.html.

Source: The 2011 Survey of Online Learning, Babson Survey Research Group