Public More Skeptical of Online College Courses

Fewer than one-third of Americans believe that online college courses provide value equal to classroom instruction, but half of college presidents disagree.

Those are findings from a pair of Pew Research Center surveys taken at the intersection of higher education and technology. One survey involved telephone calls to 2,142 adults 18 and older living in the U.S. The other, performed in conjunction with the Chronicle of Higher Education, was an online poll among presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year colleges and universities, including private, public and for-profit.

More than three-quarters of the college presidents reported that their institutions now offer online courses, Pew said. While 89% of four-year public schools offer online courses, only 60% of four-year private schools do.

Among college graduates, one in four reported having taken an online course, although that percentage rose to 46% among those who graduated within the last 10 years. Among college presidents, 50% predict that 10 years from now most of their students will take classes online, Pew said.

Most college presidents see an increase in plagiarism and most believe that computers and the Internet have played a role.

Technology is ubiquitous in the highest realms of the ivory tower. Nearly 90% of college presidents use a smartphone daily, while 65% use a laptop. Half use a tablet computer like iPad, while the percentage using e-readers like Kindle stood at 42%, Pew said. About a third report using Facebook at least weekly, and 18% occasionally use Twitter.

In the classroom, where rules about student use of technology remain largely unwritten, 41% of college presidents said that students are allowed to use laptops or other portable devices during class. At most schools, that decision is left to individual instructors. Only 2% of college presidents said that such devices are prohibited in the classroom.

Among recent graduates, 57% said they used laptops, smartphones or tablet computers while in class.


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