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10 must-haves to appease online students

By Meris Stansbury, Managing Editor, @eSN_Meris
February 1st, 2016

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Large-scale survey recognizes often-contradictory demands from students; offers recommendations for programs.

online-learning-studentsHigher ed online learning students expect a lot from their programs; but with every student’s unique expectations and desires, how can institutions not only rise above the competition, but offer the best online learning options for their students?

Those are the questions a joint survey–conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research of 1,500 individuals part of higher ed online learning programs nationwide–aimed to answer in its fourth annual survey.

Every year, these organizations conduct a survey of students at least 18 years old; have a minimum of a high school degree; and were recently enrolled, currently enrolled, or planning to enroll in the next 12 months in either a fully online undergraduate or graduate degree program or a fully online certificate or licensure program. (To access the 2012, 2013, and 2014 reports, click here.)

The report summarizes the trends in the online student experience, from recruitment to graduation, and aims to provide insights on how to attract and serve these students.

“The patterns and preferences of the sample of individual interviews are reflective of online students as a whole, and the data reflect a national template of the behavior and preferences of these students,” notes the report. “College and university leaders can use this information to attract and serve this growing population. Individual institutions should also consider regional data and their positioning in the local marketplace.”

10 must-have’s from 2016’s online learning students

According to the report, today’s online learning program:

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1.Must help with students’ careers: Roughly 75 percent of online students surveyed seek further education to change careers, get a job, earn a promotion or keep up to date with their skills. The third most appealing marketing message among the group sampled was “a high job placement rate.” Online learning must also be major- or program-driven, as 60 percent of respondents indicated that they selected their program of study first and then considered institutions. One-third responded that the critical factor in decision-making was “The program was the best match,” which was more important than price or reputation. “Colleges that want to excel in attracting prospective online students must prepare them for, and connect them to, the world of work,” highlights the report.

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2.Must offer choices for personalization: The report emphasizes throughout that online students are diverse in their preferences, so there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. “The preferences of online college students are often contradictory, so decision-makers need to consider and pursue a variety of strategies to reach the maximum amount of this population,” says the report. One example of contradictory attitudes can be seen in the survey’s question of: “How often would you be willing to log in at a specific time to join a required discussion or virtual lecture with your instructor and classmates?” 21 percent of students responded “never,” but 15 percent responded “more than five times per course.” When asked if they preferred paper or electronic textbooks, 43 percent preferred electronic, 33 percent preferred paper and 23 percent didn’t have a preference.

(Next page: Online learning must-have’s 3-6)

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