CHLOE 6 Survey Highlights Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education, Plans to Further Integrate Online Learning to Meet Student Needs

October 23, 2021

The Sixth Edition of the Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) Survey — a survey of Chief Online Officers (COOs) — sheds new light on the future of online learning, while providing important insight into how colleges and universities responded to the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolved throughout 2020.

The results — available in CHLOE 6: Online Learning Leaders Adapt for a Post-Pandemic World — highlight how attitudes toward online learning have changed as a result of the pandemic. “Exposure of faculty and students across the entire spectrum of U.S. higher education to online tools and techniques during the pandemic is causing a positive reassessment of online learning,” noted Dr. Ron Legon, QM Executive Director Emeritus and Contributing Editor of CHLOE 6. “A more complete integration of in- person and online modes of college learning coupled with accelerated growth is likely to occur in the years immediately ahead.”

CHLOE 6 tracks how institutions are reassessing their priorities related to online learning and shifting focus to ed tech enhancements, faculty professional development and online quality. “Higher ed institutions, especially those that have been primarily in-person, are planning for a future inclusive of the online modality by prioritizing quality and supporting both faculty and students in that endeavor,” shared Dr. Bethany Simunich, QM Director of Research and Innovation and Co-Director of CHLOE 6.


The survey shows:

  • An elevated commitment to online learning quality assurance goals, including having courses meet quality standards, supported by a commitment to faculty professional development.
  • An average 10-15% increase across institutions in online professional development and student orientation to online study to serve previously in-person faculty and students.
  • The largest yearly increases ever in ed tech investment in 2020 and 2021 across all sectors of higher ed.


“We will look back on COVID-19 as the force that propelled online learning to new heights of adoption, relevance and value. CHLOE 6 captures the early stages of this trend,” said Richard Garrett, Eduventures Chief Research Officer and Co-Director of CHLOE 6. “College and university leaders have the opportunity to craft powerful new models combining the best of campus and the best of online.”

The CHLOE surveys are now in their fifth year. For CHLOE 6, 422 U.S. colleges and universities contributed to the survey. Ninety-five percent of respondents indicated the presence of an officer fitting the COO description. Dr. Eric E. Fredericksen, Associate Vice President of Online Learning at the University of Rochester and Contributing Editor of CHLOE 6, recognized the vital contributions of his colleagues. “Once again, the CHLOE team appreciates the Chief Online Officers at our colleges and universities for their participation in this research study. It is critical for higher education to reflect on what we have learned during this pandemic and how our institutions are positioned for the future.”

This report was made possible through the support of the CHLOE Advisory Panel as well as platinum sponsor iDesign and gold sponsors Archer Education and the Online Learning Consortium.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has advanced conversations across higher education institutions regarding the strategic importance of high quality online learning.” explained Whitney Kilgore, Co-Founder and Chief Academic Officer at iDesign. “An intense focus on quality will address issues such as student engagement, access, equity, and accessibility. The CHLOE 6 Report provides an excellent snapshot of the digital transformation of higher education — a work in progress.”

The full report can be downloaded from either the Quality Matters or Eduventures websites.

The principal authors of the report are Richard Garrett (Eduventures Research) and Dr. Bethany Simunich (Quality Matters) with Senior Editor Dr. Ron Legon (Quality Matters) and Contributing Editor Dr. Eric Fredericksen (University of Rochester).

Dr. Bethany Simunich and Richard Garrett are available for comment:

Bethany Simunich, Ph.D., Director of Research and Innovation, Quality Matters (bsimunich@qualitymatters.org; 410.497.8068)

Richard Garrett, Eduventures Chief Research Officer, ACT | NRCCUA

(rgarrett@eduventures.com; 617.704.8481)

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.

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