University breaks student engagement record–here’s how

Survey shows that many students earning degrees online are more engaged than students at traditional universities; faculty involvement still critical to success.

online-student-engagementAccording to a recent National Survey of Student Engagement, students earning an online degree reported feeling as connected and engaged as those studying at traditional universities – if not even more so.

The annual survey, which polls over 350,000 students from more than 600 institutions in the United States and Canada, asks students to rate their experiences and the quality of their education based on a host of topics including the quality of their interactions with faculty, academic support, and more.

Though the full 2014 NSSE report has not been released yet, the early information shows that online students rated their experiences highly. In fact, Western Governors University, an online, competency-based university with more than 53,000 students from all 50 states, was singled out due to its students rating it higher in several key areas than students of traditional in-person institutions.

In many cases, WGU students ranked their institution with scores significantly higher than the national average:

  • Quality of interactions with faculty—20 percent higher
  • Quality of academic support—23 percent higher
  • Would definitely attend the same institution again—25 percent higher
  • Overall rating of entire educational experience—16 percent higher

Similarly, students from WGU also responded positively when it came to the actual content of their studies. They rated the challenge presented by their course work as “very much” 19 percent higher than the national average, which included spending 13 percent more time on their studies weekly. Additionally, WGU students gave top ratings to their acquisition of job-related knowledge and skills, which amounted to being 13 percent higher than the national average for other students.

“These ratings by our students tell us that WGU is providing a great learning experience as well as high-quality, relevant degree programs,” said WGU’s vice president for Institutional Research Jason Levin. “Although our students complete their programs in an online, self-paced environment, they rate the quality of their interactions with faculty higher than students at many traditional institutions. This is because WGU faculty members, called mentors, work with students individually, guiding their learning and providing coaching and support tailored to each student’s needs.”

(Next page: Why faculty is key to success; best practices recommendations)