How Is Student Engagement In Online Learning Measured

Despite the vast expanses of time for online learning, and the plethora of options to attend online, how can we track the quality of the learning? From a corporate perspective, it’s unclear what metrics we’re actually using to measure educational outcomes.

How Is Student Engagement In Online Learning Measured

The primary ways online education is gauged is through student perception surveys conducted by media reports, and surveys conducted in Higher Education, which are often dated within a year of the report’s release. The University of Illinois at Chicago conducts annual surveys of students enrolled in online courses and found a correlation between overall satisfaction and learning outcomes. The institution looked at several factors in their survey, such as time spent in class and completion rate, but the majority of students selected satisfaction as their top reason for registering.

The name, “Online learning,” may carry greater significance at big, traditional universities in the United States, but across higher education, online course options have been increasing as students become more reliant on them for their postsecondary education. A recent Higher Education study revealed that 63 percent of US students may choose an online course as their only postsecondary course of study. There are over 50,000 registered courses for the 2017-2018 academic year across the US, representing a whopping 20 percent increase from the 2016-2017 academic year. Online course offerings are rising annually while actual course sizes are decreasing for both online and traditional campuses. Some consider that trend a reflection of increased accessibility, lower tuition costs, and higher student satisfaction. However, many students still find it challenging to navigate and integrate these courses, making it harder for them to translate their feedback into tangible course improvement.

Online Courses Don’t Need Two-Way Communication

Concerns about student persistence, delivery of learning, student success, and the ease of faculty resources are some of the more commonly asked questions about online education. The face-to-face communication process at college/university levels can consist of a teacher visiting the classroom, face-to-face notes and videos about assignments, extended discussions, and finally a final exam—all potentially with multiple outcomes: grades, credit, learning outcomes, and resources for the student. Those who struggle with the process often face potential academic barriers: attendance requirements, poor learning outcomes, or divergent interests.

Online course offerings rely on much less reliable information, and often involve optional elements and short discussion periods. Student feedback may be measured solely in measures of student opinion about online course information (such as “the tool I use to access information was helpful”), the technical setup of the course—such as a functionality called Learning Management System (LMS)—plus the timing of information dissemination. Regardless of format, this marks a shift away from face-to-face responses and attention to student success.

Extended communication does not always reflect student satisfaction with online learning, particularly if students are able to utilize material from both online and traditional content. This is a common complaint among instructors: how is there a method for more complete teaching than multiple times per week? Extended time online has become the norm in higher education, with professors having the most available online class time available per class for their professors. When faculty expand their online curriculum or online resources, especially for course extension, they are shown to be effective and accountable for their online courses. Extending course material is an alternative to learning to completion. Many faculty don’t use extend online as much as they think they should. Two-way communication in online courses and the effectiveness of communicating feedback to students often get lost in the shuffle.

How To Engage Online Students

Universities across the country are relying on the engagement of online students through online discussions, Q&A’s, and other elements of engagement. These interactive forms of education will not be able to replace face-to-face interactions between professors and students. However, the higher levels of productivity and the ability to design your courses to optimize student success make online learning an increasingly viable option in higher education.

Fortunately, the online education landscape is evolving quickly and becoming much more user-friendly. With the power to allow students to communicate directly with their professors and students using an interactive platform, online courses will be accessible to almost everyone. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, courses can be accessed via their website and audio and text messages can be sent to students’ phones, allowing students to interact with course materials without using the Internet. The university’s online technology team is constantly tracking and adjusting their platform so they can provide the best student experience and provide instructors with the information they need to increase communication with students.

It’s about time online course institutions fully embrace the open platforms of technology and utilize them to ensure the highest level of student satisfaction and learner success.

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