Overall, students believe the benefits of online education to be improving access to education, enabling independent learning, accelerating completion of a degree program, and helping address challenging priorities (like working part- or full-time).
Students interested in online learning also listed 10 general features they’d like incorporated into online learning:
However, despite shared attitudes in general, “students are by no means homogenous,” says the report, which found that online learners fall into five distinct categories:
1. True Believers (15 percent of the total): These students are most familiar to institutions, as these are the students that online education grew to serve. True believers take the majority or all of their classes online, are vocal advocates, and love the asynchronous, learn-at-your-own-pace convenience. This group believes online learning is a great alternative to traditional education, rather than as a part of the full menu of offerings.
2. Online Rejecters (15 percent): These learners have tried online courses but have decided not to continue in the future due to what they consider lack of quality and reputation.
3. Experience Seekers (23 percent): These students focus on the experience, social and emotional aspects of education, and believe college is the place to build lifelong relationships. Surprisingly, it does not matter to them which form their education takes, so long as they achieve their goal of a degree for personal and social advancement.
4. Money Mavens (17 percent): Those part of this group are motivated by the financial outcomes of an education and want to achieve an acceptable ROI, get a better job and make more money.
5. Open Minds (30 percent): This segment has the potential to become true believers if their online experience meets their high standards and offers benefits beyond those of traditional classrooms, such as greater interactivity with professors and peers. This group, notes the report, represents “the largest potential for growth in online education over the near term.”
(Next page: Implications for institutions)