“koller, Daphne. “”what We’re Learning From Online Education”

We celebrate Meet the Media this week with a look at digital-only education podcast Meet the Media.

"koller, Daphne. ""what We're Learning From Online Education"

We’re learning from online education as a society, with the cost factor as the top teaching priority, proven by Gallup’s most recent survey of postsecondary administrators. Online education (often backed up by corporate partnerships or “offline” campus expansion), now represents 56 percent of students from 16 to 18 years old.

But the most startling is the survey finding that this mobile, accessible sector isn’t just portable; it’s pervasive and increasingly popular. What’s more, Gallup also found that young people are increasingly behind the “behavioral change” of their elders. “For example, by their mid-20s, most students had managed to stop smoking and drinking,” reports Gallup. “This was less likely to be true for older cohorts.”

In May 2018, Gallup called the news “big” and cited the following as interesting: “the percentage of college students who were likely to graduate in six years or less would be much higher if the 6-year deadline were moved up one year, from 6 to 6.7 years.” The risk of graduation failure was a considerable obstacle for graduates in Gallup’s older sample, but was an even bigger obstacle for today’s 19- and 20-year-olds.

As something as ubiquitous as, or more popular than, traditional textbooks, how is it that online textbooks haven’t yet tipped the cost/college affordability balance? Sufficiently “practical” resources for interactive learning will be a long way off, but the Pew Research Center asked for information about “a variety of online resources” recently. The answers showed that, “fewer than three in ten use search engines, databases or e-textbooks to source information or resources; only about one in five use textbooks from one of the top online textbook publishers.” In fact, one in five respondents report ever using an e-textbook in a class they were enrolled in.

One of the most significant barriers to using more mobile educational resources, according to Pew’s study, is that “students and parents’ perceptions of the products and content offered online differ substantially from their actual experience with the products and content.” In particular, the organization reports that “[e]asily available digital materials tend to be perceived as ‘less relevant to the world of academics.’” Comparable concerns about “diversity and equity,” as well as the “content and format of the materials” negatively affect usage, with students primarily using social media sites for educational resources.

As such, the business model of online education does not fit with our beliefs and values. As one-third of users surveyed by Gallup indicated that they use in-person courses and the occasional course online because they can’t find the right materials. From our position at Planet Learning, we know that most students need well-curated and affordable content, simply to pass, and get into their programs. This makes it imperative that we do not live and work under the false belief that immersive learning cannot be done online.

Other indications that online resources can lead to students continuing their education include engagement rates that are four times higher, compared to in-person courses, and students’ expectation that all educators should have a base level of online education. As it becomes more proven, we hope that society begins to understand just how valuable online learning is.

In response to Gallup’s “Big” news, Rick Kendrick, CEO of Planet Learning, said, “I believe that one of the most interesting aspects of learning online is that it moves up from a different social perception. Today, when I suggest that you make a purchase on Amazon you know that the person who made the purchase is Amazon and they know what the product is. I don’t see people being so surprised by that anymore, as people realize, ‘I can purchase from a friend, I can make a purchase from Amazon.’”

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