LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and University of Kentucky on Monday welcomed students back on campus for the first day of classes.

However, campuses might not see as many students walking around as enrolled because recent data show more and more people are opting to take online classes. 

What You Need To Know

  • The number of college and university students in Kentucky learning online has increased

  • Data emailed to Spectrum News from WKY, Eastern Kentucky University and UofL show increased enrollment in online classes or programs since before the pandemic started

  • UK officials stated “almost 90% of current undergraduate class sections are in-person”

  • The pandemic has sped up the move toward more people opting to learn online 

Chloe Gage’s first class ever as a freshman at UofL was chemistry.

“I’m a little bit nervous because it has like 100 people in it; so it’s going to be a big class,” Gage said while walking on UofL’s campus to that class.

The 18-year-old from Bowling Green has five classes this semester, and all of them are in-person classes.

“I could’ve done about half of them online if I chose to, but I decided to do them in-person,” she said. “It’s my first semester here at UofL, so I wanted to get more involved and meet more people that way.”

In the spring, however, Gage thinks she’ll take two classes online. 

“I think I’ll be able to get more acclimated this semester, so that next semester I’ll be able to have more flexibility because I’m gonna get a job,” Gage explained.

Gage isn’t the only UofL student eyeing online classes as an alternative to in-person learning.

According to data sent to Spectrum News by UofL, in fall 2019, 25% of UofL students took at least one online course. Last fall, that number was 56%. There has also been growth in students enrolling in 100% online programs. In fall 2019, 2,626 people were enrolled and preliminary data for this fall shows there are 2,800 students enrolled. 

Interim Associate Provost for UofL’s Online Learning and Technology department Kristen Brown has worked in the online learning field since 2001. She said online programs and classes were mainly of interest and designed for adults trying to fit education into their lives. 

“They’ve got family, work and then education. They could kind of make their top third priority, at best. So it’s been designed for that, but we are definitely seeing an increase in freshman coming to UofL wanting to take online programs, which we have not really seen that before,” Brown said.

Eastern Kentucky University data emailed to Spectrum News shows course enrollment for traditional face-to-face classes this fall is 57.3% compared to 77.15% in fall 2019. 

According to data from WKU’s Office of Institutional Research emailed to Spectrum News, students taking no online courses in fall 2019 was 57.9% while this fall 38.4% of students are taking no classes online. In fall 2019, 22.4% of students took a hybrid approach with classes in-person and online, while this fall 41.4% of students are doing that. Students who are only taking classes online had a slight uptick, with 20.2% going that route versus 19.7% in fall 2019.


Regarding UK students taking classes online versus in-person, spokesperson Jay Blanton emailed, “Almost 90% of the current Undergraduate Class Sections are In Person, a very similar percentage to last Fall.” Blanton added those numbers may fluctuate, given the last day to add a class at UK is Aug. 26. 

Brown said UofL has been seeing growth in online learning for years but the pandemic has accelerated it.

“And it wasn’t just students that realized they could access education differently, but faculty, they are enjoying the ability to learn how to teach differently. They are enjoying the ability to fit their lives into their work lives,” she said.

Brown also said UofL understands it has to continue to invest in online learning because of its growth, and right now the university is focused on the quality of online learning. For example, virtual reality is being looked at as a way to engage students with digital learning.

Gage said having online class options makes building her class schedule each semester easier.

“So that if there isn’t an opening for a time that you need it, you can just opt for online, which makes it a lot easier on your schedule and having it more your own way instead of having to be going somewhere all day,” Gage said.

Besides getting a job next semester, gage said she also wants to join on-campus clubs and activities, which will be easier with a more flexible schedule, and is also part of what makes going to college fun.