6 factors that can help colleges deliver better online courses, resources

Wiley’s survey of students reveals that more than 90% like some form of digital learning.

Despite the hiccups that occurred with remote learning during the early stages of the pandemic, most college students say they appreciate online offerings from their institutions, according to a new report from Wiley.

The education solution provider’s “Voice of the Online Learner” report shows that 94% of prospective and past students enjoyed those classes, and more than 80% have signaled they would take courses online again if given the opportunity. The vast majority also believe those courses can help boost job-relevant skills and lead to better salaries.

“Individuals who engage in online learning overwhelmingly have a positive experience,” said Todd Zipper, Wiley’s executive vice president and general manager of University Services and Talent Development. “They also see real value in the results they achieve through online education, which allow them to advance in their career.”

Colleges that can provide quicker pathways to success and more flexibility likely will attract both groups of modern learners–the more traditional on-campus students who were shifted online because of the pandemic and those that remain all in on a digital-first education.

Among its pool of 2,500 students surveyed, a surprising 77% said they looked at modality first, even over choice of institution. If the college they were interested in didn’t offer online opportunities, 60% said they might look at competing colleges instead.

While the online-first crowd isn’t against having an occasional class in person or available as a synchronous option (79% said they would), they love having the flexibility of asynchronous options. They also believe in the online learning that colleges are providing to them, with 85% saying “my online program is worth my time.)” More than 80% value college degrees and have job prospects high on their wish lists.

Not every online experience works well even for digital-first learners, and colleges must be intentional about how they deliver that programming. For example, the majority of students who have labs said they want to have them in person. Students also want to know that colleges can provide them with clear pathways to careers. They want to see strong course design and delivery, while “building an online community to support student success and improving engagement among peers and faculty.” Wiley says marketing to online learners absolutely should focus on how well online learning can get them to degrees quickly and lead to better career outcomes.

As for students intent on pursuing online education in higher education, here are six of their wishes from Wiley’s survey:

  • They want to stay close to home, even if they are online. That means within 50 miles of the institution, so the nature of being online anywhere when it comes to education is not yet global.
  • They can be lured in with online ads. But once colleges hook them in, it is their websites that must be powerful enough to deliver the right information quickly about programs they offer.
  • They won’t be swayed by simple $500 to $1,000 scholarship perks. They are hardly going to offset overall costs, and students know that.
  • Nearly three-quarters of students want programs that can be done as quickly as possible. Most want asynchronous options, most want to have multiple start dates and most want to be able to take courses back to back and not wait.
  • Almost half of all online learners – including those who are looking at colleges – said they want to be able to do class work on their mobile devices, including cell phones.
  • Two-thirds of undergraduate students want to see most, if not all, of their credits transfer.
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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