Academia can continue quivering in fear and refuse to adopt massive open online courses, but a new study from Babson suggests this growing popularity isn’t a mere fad. Over 6.7 million students are now taking at least one online course, despite the opposition from more traditional faculty members.

The 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group highlights higher education’s dire need to evolve—and quick. Seventy-seven percent of academic leaders ranked the learning outcomes in online education “as the same or superior to” those reached in physical classrooms, where face-to-face interaction is touted as some key game changer.

Yet, if students can receive similar or better outcomes by taking courses online for free, why step foot into a classroom at all?

MOOCs continue to receive criticism. The survey admits academic leaders “remain unconvinced” that the platforms represent a “sustainable method for offering online courses.” As the years progress, however, so will MOOCs’ features, and the smarter move would be to give the ever-expansive mode of online learning its well-deserved due now. The sooner schools adapt, the easier it will be to keep up, if they aren’t already too far behind.

“Learning is no longer limited to four walls—learning can happen anywhere—and it already is happening everywhere, everyday,” said Todd Hitchcock, senior vice president of online solutions at Pearson Learning Solutions, in a release. “The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce.”

In just over a year, the number of students taking at least one online course grew by 570,000. Sad to say, only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC, according to the survey, and only 9.4 percent report MOOCs are part of their plans moving forward.

One notable shift is that the proportion of “chief academic leaders who say online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high of 69.1 percent,” yet the percentage of faculty below them who actually accept the value and legitimacy of online education still lingers at a mere 30.2 percent.

The survey—completed in partnership with Pearson, the Sloan Consortium and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation—is based on responses from over 2,800 academic leaders. The entire survey is now available online, but for a look at some of the rest of the data broken down, check out charts from the survey in the slideshow below.