Overview of virtual education at the university level

In Colombia, there are only 416 undergraduate programs with a virtual methodology and they are primarily for university training.


Virtual undergraduate programs serve 7% of the higher education student population, most of whom are women.

81% of the virtual programs are offered by private institutions.

Only 3% of the virtual programs have the high-quality accreditation of the Ministry of National Education.

The COVID-19 situation will consolidate the creation of virtual or hybrid programs in higher education.

The dropout rate in undergraduate programs delivered virtually is twice as high as in face-to-face classes.

Bogotá, June 18, 2020 The Economics of Education Laboratory (LEE) conducted a statistical analysis that sets out the general characteristics of undergraduate training programs with virtual methodology offered up to 2018. It also provides data on the student population entering these programs and the evolution in the number of students enrolled between 2011 and 2018.

The transition to virtual education is not an event occurring exclusively because of the appearance of COVID-19; it is something that has been going on for several years now. Although many Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) had to change and adapt quickly to the virtual methodology as a result of the confinement measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, other HEIs had already been steadily and increasingly using this practice.


The document notes that the number of registrations of virtual undergraduate programs in the National Higher Education Information System (SNIES) has increased over time. In the first decade of the 21st century, an average of 5 programs were registered, while in the following decade this figure rose to 35. Currently, most virtual programs offered are concentrated in the areas of economics, administration, accounting and related areas (47%).


As for student enrollment in the first year (or first semester) of virtual undergraduate programs, there was an average annual growth of 49% between 2011 and 2018.


In 2018, 82,688 students entered the first year of virtual undergraduate programs. 52% enrolled in university programs, 42% in programs at the associate degree level and the remaining 6% in vocational programs.


The analysis also indicates that of the same group of students who enrolled in these programs in the first semester of 2014, 67% dropped out by the tenth semester. This implies a challenge on the part of HEIs, to decrease the dropout rates, while consolidating the quality offered by virtual or hybrid programs.

The impetus for the creation of more virtual programs in higher education, within the framework of COVID-19, is also given by the investment and preparation of institutions and professors to adapt to new teaching methodologies. This will also allow the education offer to reach other regions of the country, where there are not many options,” says Luz Karime Abadía, Co-Director of the Economics of Education Laboratory (LEE) of the Universidad Javeriana.


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