Online courses are a modern way to learn that’s better than most alternatives. Here’s what professional developers think about these options.
What Do Professional Developers Think Of Online Schools Fro Learning
Like their teachers, online school professionals may be putting too much energy into their work, the American Institutes for Research recently found.
Admissions members at 140 universities and colleges studied average concentrations and degree completion rates for 100,000 undergraduate students in online-only degree programs. Despite the better-than-expected 20 percent likelihood of more than 200,000 completed degrees, and quite a bit of variation across institutions, online university admissions are far too focused on telling prospective students about who their teachers are, and too little about what the students do on the computer. In fact, the researchers argue that online university advisors may be overlooking five points that have been proven to increase graduation and performance even after students complete their degrees: engaging students in exercises, quizzes, and assessments, revising and evaluating their work more often, finding ways to engage students in extracurricular activities, giving them job experience, and keeping them on track with their schoolwork.
The recent report—which came out of the Drilling The Truth series and is based on a nationwide survey of online degree student admissions members at 144 academic institutions—also shows that some prominent online universities are motivated by national Pivotal Education education summit data that indicate institutions that target highly motivated, educated nontraditional students can increase their graduation rates fivefold. Some of these institutions acknowledge that more than half of their potential-to-graduate students are not realizing their full potential because they’re not having the same benefits or benefits included for students that take regular classes.
Online institutions told researchers that their models and admissions techniques should vary from school to school, pointing to its effectiveness in accepting students from diverse demographics, and providing ongoing support to keep them on track to graduation.
The researchers explained the results to me:
“What we wanted to do is to answer the question, what does really work when it comes to education and career readiness? We wanted to demonstrate that there are some critical points in the process where what might have been a social experiment could have started to pay off for many of these institutions… in this case we looked at majors and associate degree programs, and what we found was very surprising: going all in with faculty advising versus relying on individuals as the primary gatekeeper did correlate to better completion rates and the opportunity to graduate in four years. We knew there was more work to be done, and we wanted to find out what other metrics could help us understand how to sustain what was working. This is one of those areas of trying to figure out how to incentivize institutions and how to have more sustainable approaches that ensure that the next generation of highly motivated students… are retained in higher education.”
With a few exceptions, the majority of online-only institutions have advisers trained to ensure the goals and priorities set by students are met. The majority of schools use faculty advisors, although there is often a significant role for non-faculty advisers as well.
The survey respondents feel that staff members should know about students’ course preferences, their favorite books and resources, and to fully understand their interests, needs, and goals. While counselors are expected to help students, these same educators often are not aware of student growth markers, such as writing composition, self-study group work, and more. Again, this is a point that makes sense: knowing a student’s likes and interests helps the counselor understand when students are in progress toward personal goals and gets them to specific tasks that go toward that goal.
The report suggests that where personalized advising and the explicit need to meet students where they are is a real inhibitor for higher education institutions, and it asks, “Can we find ways to build greater use of data, an understanding of student-specific needs, and greater confidence in the intuition of online advisers?”
What we see is that the data is slowly changing. School websites and events tell us that students still like to hang out and socialize, they still connect with each other, and they want more individual attention. It isn’t just social alone that’s important; physicality and maturity are important, too.
When they put their time and energy into what students need to achieve success, online universities have the potential to create the type of outcomes we know that the nation desperately needs.