More than 6.1 million college students—31 percent of those enrolled—were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 semester, according to a report on online learning. "Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011," compiled by the Babson Survey Research Group in partnership with the College Board, gathered data from more than 2,500 higher-education institutions.

The number of students in online courses in 2011 represents a 10 percent increase over the previous year. That compares with an increase of less than 1 percent in the overall number of higher-education students, the survey says.

Sixty-five percent of colleges and universities say that online education is a critical part of their long-term strategy. Sixty-seven percent of academic leaders at higher-education institutions believe the learning outcomes in online courses are the same or superior to face-to-face sessions. But less than one-third of chief academic officers believe that the faculty members at their institutions accept the value and legitimacy of online education.