+pacansky-brock Students Feel Successful In Online Learning When Community

Are your college seniors thriving online? This article will highlight the experiences of on-campus adjunct adjunct instructors who are providing instruction in online courses for students.

+pacansky-brock Students Feel Successful In Online Learning When Community

As both students and educators continue to search for an innovative way to provide degree courses online, University of the Pacific Global Education has found that students gain an important sense of achievement when they include their community as part of their on-line experience.

“Our first survey of two hundred and twenty-two students found that they were engaged, motivated, and very interested in learning. But when you actually examine the characteristics and motivations that are most strongly associated with online learning, the experience did not have the same sense of achievement they felt offline,” says Robert Pappalardo, chair of the School of Education faculty and consultant to the Department of Information and Learning Technologies at UOP.

When surveyed, 75% of the students reported engaging with their community on a regular basis, compared to 67% who report seeing their community when they were in the classroom. Students who reported regularly engaging with their community were significantly more likely to rate their online learning experience as a “good thing” and less likely to report that they “cannot think of anything to do on Sunday”. They also felt more strongly that their online experience was important to their lives.

“In addition, students who are engaged in community activities both on campus and off campus have higher self-reported social connectedness, a broader scope of social and professional contacts, and higher levels of self-confidence,” Pappalardo adds.

These findings have helped to shape UOP’s curriculum to help teachers engage their students in community activities on campus and off. “The class structure in the New Technology and Applied Learning Center is designed to be flexible, to enable our teachers to make room in their schedule for additional activities, much like a job fair.”

At the end of the year, all students with a new computing experience in the applied learning center are invited to host their community on-campus social events. “As these activities progress, we have seen some very successful sessions. Students organized a scavenger hunt at the gardens. Another group discussed veganism.”

The idea is to help students obtain valuable life skills while gaining an understanding of their community. “The key difference for our students is that they get to do all the talking. Instead of just hearing other people’s ideas, they can also participate in designing and executing their own.”

“These are the kinds of experiences that help students think about the kind of change they would like to create in their communities. And the payoff for this work is the increased self-confidence that comes with being active in your own community,” Pappalardo says.

What are students looking for in online courses? According to a survey by UOP Global Education, they want to do interesting and specialized work. “One thing students want is to experience things that have not previously been possible, to learn in a way that has never been available before, and to satisfy a need in their society.”

Another big concern is that students are dissatisfied with their current level of skills and knowledge. When students do their own online research, they learn that many online courses now provide that depth of content. “The learning speed has accelerated, to the point where traditional students now enter online courses with an advantage. Students still want those higher levels of skills.”

Pappalardo believes that this is due to the widespread availability of online degrees. “Students already have these credentials and they have been used as endorsements, so they are very marketable.”

The pilot program on the undergraduate level is now complete, and classes for the graduate-level students began in May. UOP Global Education has received nearly $5 million in funding from the United States Department of Education and another $3 million from UOP Foundation to finance these pilot classes. The school plans to gradually expand this program to 500 students per year for a total enrollment of 5,000 students.

“One of the positive things is that, despite the big investment in equipment, students are finding that our brand of online learning is similar to their on-campus experience,” says Pappalardo. “They experience, at times, the same sense of achievement, as they do when in the classroom.”

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