Organizational Psychologist Judson A. Radcliffe discusses assumptions about hybrid and blended learning that are not helpful, and how these can ultimately be inflated.
What Are Theperceptions Of Online And Hybrid/blended Learning In Relation To Traditional Courses
By Matt Haughey, Associate Professor Of Marketing, University of Denver–Adams State University – Graduate School of Management Online Assistant Program (GESMA)
The image that students under traditional online learning models are simply unprepared for the rigors of traditional classes. But, as a young learner and newer marketer, I wanted to see if that perception was justified. As a marketer and online analyst, one thing that was very important to me was better understanding the brand interest in online and hybrid/blended learning models. According to The Millward Brown Global eMarketer Global Study Of Online Learning (PDF), 43% of students say that online learning is a step up from traditional course offerings.
What I found was surprisingly similar to the older survey results, which showed 42% of students believe online learning would elevate their class experience. They also believe it would save them time, ease their course load, and allow them to research topics more easily.
I would conclude that these findings are more likely fueled by students’ desire to take on more responsibility for their higher education. Most if not all of them are seeking a broader range of competencies that would translate to college course placement. For more information on the challenges and opportunities facing the market, click here.
Online Brand Interest
According to the Gallup Poll of Public Attitudes, Incorporated, 68% of adults in the U.S. are either already enrolled in or have been applying to online learning programs. This represents approximately 36 million Americans. As a marketer, what were the variables that informed my decision to do a market research project on the segment of students applying to this online learning market?
It was important to start with the Pew Research Center’s 2016 report, “How Education Converts From Traditional To Online,” which shows the growth of online learning. Twenty years ago, the majority of college students were enrolled in a traditional setting. In 2015, that had shifted to only 19% of students in traditional settings and 89% enrolled in online courses.
After accounting for the growth of distance learning programs from 2008 to 2015, the same report shows that approximately half of all college students are enrolled in an online format for their course of study. And, those students usually begin online learning by acquiring the competencies and skills they need to meet the minimum competency or exit course requirements for the graduate program.
It is fairly obvious that these students would also be interested in building their brand. They would be looking for a better online experience to drive their class placement. For students who choose a hybrid or blended learning model, a better brand can help get them admitted to graduate programs.
Analysis And Results
So, let’s examine my findings, which reveal the perceptions of the students and their intent to continue getting better. Over the course of a survey, I received almost 500 responses. I asked students to rate their desire to apply for online programs and their desire to start an online learning program in one to five points on a scale from “not interested” to “definitely interested.” For the hybrid/blended learning format, I asked them to rank their satisfaction with the total learning experience as measured by seven factors, including the format and content, class size, learning management system (LMS), assessment, group participation, and instructor contact. I found that 70% of students were satisfied with their overall learning experience. 69% reported learning on-demand courses in one to five days. 68% stated they would be interested in applying for an online program to complete more coursework that would help them be better prepared for graduate school.
How Have These Results Differed From Other Market Research Reports?
I wanted to compare my findings to those from other studies. For this purpose, I conducted a similar survey, although with a different focus. I contacted the communications team at all nine online education companies listed in the Gallup study. The four companies I contacted that responded are a leader in blended/hybrid learning: Udacity, edX, Via, and Lynda. I then asked them to send me eight anonymous survey questions that I graded on a 1 to 5 point scale. However, my grading was biased as I felt that my survey would capture the results better than an open-ended survey approach. These companies were offered 15 questionnaires, each of which covered a completely different portion of the learning experience: Udacity asked about the use of data analytics in online learning, Via asked about the use of digital tools in the learning process, and Lynda asked for student feedback on online course design.
Data & Results
Overall, students and potential students are indicating interest in an online learning experience. However, they do not agree with the content and design of this learning experience. 40% of students report that their experience with online courses is unacceptable, and another 30% indicate they would like to start an