online learning

At last! A new resource to help evaluate online learning programs

Online learning programs are on the rise, and this means institutions must ensure high-quality programs in the face of stiff competition

Any improvements an institution makes are likely to trickle down to face-to-face students as well.

“Improvements to support for online students can benefit all students,” says Josh Strigle, director of e-learning and learning support centers at the College of Central Florida. “That’s why the scorecard and associated materials have been designed to help improve the experience of every student.”

The scorecard facilitates an introspective look at 11 key areas of an institution:

  • Admissions
  • Financial aid
  • Pre-enrollment advising
  • Veterans services
  • Career counseling
  • Orientation
  • Post-enrollment services
  • Library
  • Students with disabilities services
  • Technology support
  • Graduate student services (universities only)

“The most difficult part of providing excellent online student support institution-wide is achieving cooperation from the diverse service areas across the institution,” says Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D., OLC’s chief strategy officer. “Our new scorecard overcomes this challenge by acting as an internal conversation starter which helps an institution coalesce around a commitment to providing the same level of support to their online learner community as those who are on campus.”

A companion handbook offers information on standards and best practices used by other institutions and is available exclusively to OLC Institutional Members via login.

The new scorecard comes at a time when online learning programs are expanding at institutions across the country. Ninety-nine percent of online education program administrators say demand has increased or stayed the same over the past few years, and nearly 40 percent of respondents say they plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.

In a recent survey, nearly all four-year institutions that plan to launch more than 10 new online programs in the coming years already have more than 20 such programs.

Almost 60 percent of online students in another survey say they 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.

Laura Ascione