Students say online learning is improving, but they also believe they learn less effectively during tech-enhanced virtual classes, a new survey shows. Here are the three reasons why their views on online learning are changing:
- Students in 2022 report “significant improvements” in the overall online learning experience and are confident they can learn to use new ed-tech tools.
- Younger students believe they learn less effectively online, meaning campus leaders struggle with lower-quality perceptions. Students over 25 say they learn just as effectively online as they do in person.
- Students are positive about how colleges and universities will adopt online and hybrid programs in the future, but are less enthusiastic about taking online courses themselves.
These are the key findings from Western Governors University’s College Innovation Network CIN EdTech Student Survey 2022. The survey delved deeper into these three big takeaways and found that fewer students reported having trouble accessing edtech tools in their courses.
Students are also increasingly expecting their schools to offer online academic support, career guidance and even some social activities. “Institutions have made many improvements in students’ technology-enhanced learning experiences since the 2020-21 academic year, but there are still areas for innovation,” the report said.
Evolution of online learning
One of the great lessons of the MOOC craze of the early 2010s is that for many students, simply combining digital content and assessments is not a recipe for success, says David Andrews, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Global (formerly known as Brandman University).
Strong digital content and professors able to deliver it are essential, but institutions must also ensure online and hybrid students have access to academic coaching and other extracurricular supports as demand for distance learning grows, adds Andrews added.
“Even at face-to-face universities, students continue to tend towards a combination of online and face-to-face,” he emphasizes. “If you’re a working adult and you have to decide between traveling to a fixed location on a fixed schedule or learning on-demand, you don’t have a choice.”
This increases the pressure on admins to accommodate the unique needs of remote students. UMass Global, for example, has an Advisory Corps that helps students manage their time and balance schoolwork with work and family life. Because of these interventions, the institution has one of the highest retention rates in the online sector, despite the average age of its students being 35 and almost all of its students working, says Andrews.
More from UB: Over 100 universities have received an “A” for scholarship transparency. Is yours among them?
“Rather than waiting for someone to ask for help, we have proactive signs that it’s disengaged and we reach out to get it back on track,” he says. “Our population must be promoted and supported much more holistically.”
Most UMass Global students enroll to learn new professional skills, change careers, or for other work-related reasons. This has prompted the institution to prioritize staff-based instructional programs, one of the fastest growing components of adult and online learning. UMass Global partners with one of the state’s largest hospital networks to provide master’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as smaller micro-cards.
“Planning is as much in the hands of students as it is of faculty members,” concludes Andrews. “Online also allows you to have a talent pool across the country that meets student needs.”
Advance online learning
Identifying students struggling with edtech early is a key to improving the online experience, the College Innovation Network survey recommends. About a quarter of the students surveyed said they had difficulty learning how to use edtech, while more than a third said they had used new technology in the past year.
Colleges and universities can offer training on campus-wide technologies such as learning management systems, email, and other communication channels. During the first week of class, faculty should survey students about their skills and confidence in using edtech.
In addition, university leaders must reassure students that virtual courses are designed to academic learning standards to build confidence in the value of qualifications acquired online.