Online students say tuition and fees are among their top three deciding factors when it comes to choosing an institution, according to a Learning House survey of 1,500 students who are considering, enrolled in, or have graduated from an online learning program.

The report reveals a number of key trends as online learning evolves and becomes widely-used for career outcomes. Seventy-four percent of surveyed students enrolled in their online learning program due to career reasons.

1. Mobile-friendly programs are important to surveyed students–87 percent say they use mobile devices to search for their online program of study, and 67 percent use mobile devices to complete online coursework.

2. Career services are also a priority for online students–because 75 percent pursue a degree for career-focused reasons, career services are a critical part of their post-graduation success. Surveyed online students say services such as working with a career adviser (50 percent), receiving resume help (48 percent), and having job search assistance (40 percent) would be useful.

3. Eighty-six percent of surveyed students say they believe the value of their degrees equals or exceeds what they paid for them. Among students who have experienced both face-to-face and virtual classrooms, 85 percent say online learning is as good or better than attending courses on campus.

4. Online learning programs also are becoming more diverse. Business and education are still high-interest programs for undergraduate and graduate online students, but areas such as computers and IT, health and medicine, and STEM have grown steadily since 2014.

5. Online students support innovations that lower the cost and decrease the time necessary to earn a degree. Forty-nine percent of students would consider competency-based education, 43 percent would support stackable certificates, and 61 percent would support textbook-free courses.

6. Peer interactions and relationships have a lot to do with online students’ success. In fact, 57 percent of past and current online students say interactions with classmates are an important part of their academic success.

7. Various marketing and advertising approaches are necessary to attract online students. Digital methods such as search engine listings and social media ads have pull, but traditional marketing efforts such as television commercials and college fairs aren’t quite as easy to predict.

8. The value of an online degree lies in more than just its price. Factors that increase the perception of value in an online learning program include its convenience (28 percent of students agree), the institution’s reputation (23 percent), and the content offered (21 percent). Thirty-nine percent of students say they would be influenced by even a small scholarship, such as a $500 annual scholarship.

9. Almost 60 percent of online students made it a point to choose online learning over on-campus traditional learning due to online learning’s convenience. Many students say they like flexible transfer policies that improved their time to degree completion.

The report also outlines recommendations for school leaders seeking to improve or implement online programs. Those recommendations include:

  • Enrollment counselors at an institution need to be able to describe all the possible program opportunities for prospective students, as well as articulate the additional benefits the institution provides to help undecided students understand what program at the school best fits their needs and why.
  • Schools should ensure that general transfer credit guidelines–such as how the process works, how many credits they are able to accept, and any
    articulation agreements that are in place–are clear on their websites.
  • School should gather satisfied students’ feedback, as well as personal stories from students, and create materials that promote how online programs have helped students achieve their goals.
About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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