“With reflection, students think about who they are and what they know and how they know what they know. They question it, and there is an openness to changing what you believe and how you understand,” Gonyea said. “With integrative learning, students take information from one setting–such as a classroom–and apply it in real-world situations or in another class.”

Survey results showed that 58 percent of first-year students taking most of their classes online reported using higher-order thinking in their coursework, compared to 55 percent of classroom-based learners. Results also showed that 69 percent of first-year students taking most of their classes online reported using integrative thinking in their coursework, compared to 67 percent of classroom-based learners. Additionally, 62 percent of first-year students taking most of their classes online reported using reflective learning in their coursework, compared to 59 percent of classroom-based learners.

It might be that students who pursue online courses are those who embrace the spirit of independent, student-centered, intellectually engaging learning as captured by the deep-learning measures, according to survey results. The study also found that online courses stimulate more intellectual challenge and educational gains, suggesting that integrating technology-enhanced courses into the curriculum for all students might have some valuable benefits.

Another key finding from the survey was that more than 90 percent of the variation in the quality of undergraduate education occurs within institutions, not between them. As a result, rankings can be highly misleading predictors of educational quality. Even institutions with high benchmark scores have an appreciable share of students whose undergraduate experience is average at best, the report said.

Also, nearly 25 percent of first-year students and one out of five seniors reported that they frequently came to class without completing readings or assignments.

Thomas F. Nelson Laird, assistant professor and project manager for the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), said results from the FSSE and NSSE indicate that students spend about half as much time preparing for class as faculty expect.

“With ongoing concerns about grade inflation, these findings suggest that we in the higher-education community need to examine whether we are truly holding students accountable for their side of the educational equation,” he said.

The survey, which is entering is 10th year, annually provides comparative standards for assessing effective education practices in higher education. Five key areas of educational performance are measured: the level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and having a supportive campus environment.


National Survey of Student Engagement

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Keeping Online Learning Secure resource center. Online learning is becoming increasingly popular, especially as fuel costs force schools to consider shortened schedules and have college students opting for virtual classes to save money. But while interest and enrollment in virtual classrooms rises, so do concerns about security while students are learning online. School IT staff already work around the clock to make sure their systems are secure and reliable; they can’t afford to have school networks vulnerable to attacks from outside—or from curious students who believe they are honing their tech expertise. Go to: Keeping Online Learning Secure

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