When online higher education students were asked what they think the biggest myth is about online learning, less time and effort, easier work, and a less effective learning format topped their list, according to eLearners.com, a company that recently conducted a survey on the higher education field. More than half of these same students indicated they spent more than 10 hours per week on their coursework. Despite the workload, 90 percent of the online students surveyed indicated their experience was good or better, with more than 83 percent saying they would recommend online education to others.
“We see a tremendous amount of research done on corporate and academic institutions’ perspectives and burgeoning acceptance of online education, but we have not seen a lot from the consumer,” said Andrew Gansler, CEO of eLearners.com. “This survey indicates a satisfied customer base of hard-working students, both on the job and in school.”
The respondents who chose online learning said the best part of their educational experience was time/location flexibility (56 percent) followed by the format/style of instruction (20 percent). They indicated that the most challenging part of being an online student was “having the discipline” (32 percent) and “making the time” (25 percent). And, if they could suggest how schools can improve online education, they would recommend “improvements in online instructional materials,” “better access to financial aid” and “more instructional support.”
“The choir has spoken,” continued Gansler. “But what the unconverted — those that chose campus-based or haven’t made their decision — have to say is equally significant.”
Of the 178 responses to the survey, which was fielded in June of this year, 33 percent enrolled in online programs, 7 percent enrolled in campus-based programs and 48 percent have not yet enrolled. Among the comparative findings between campus-based and online students:
* When asked about their “biggest reason for choosing the school they attended,” the campus-based respondents ranked reputation (38 percent) first followed by most appropriate program (23 percent) and location/scheduling (23 percent). In contrast, their online peers ranked most appropriate program first at 54 percent of respondents, with scheduling/location second and reputation falling lower in the ranking with just eight percent listing it as their biggest reason for selecting their school.
* When asked about their “biggest concerns about online education,” 54 percent of those that selected campus-based learning were concerned about an online education’s reputation for potential employers versus only 32 percent of those who chose an online education. In both instances, however, the concern over interactions and relationships in online education came in a close second.
* Compared to 90 percent of its happy and contented online colleagues, only 77 percent of those attending a campus-based program indicated their experience was good or better.
Finally, among the 48 percent that have not yet enrolled, 57 percent indicated they are still planning to enroll in an online program, with 62 percent of that group planning to do so in the next year.
“The early adopter phase of online postsecondary education is behind us now,” concluded Gansler. “Schools offering online programs are going to have to work even harder to attract new prospects, convince the fence sitters, and retain the converted.”