Community college enrollment as dropped by nearly 15 percent since the COVID-19 pandemic began–a fact that is particularly concerning considering that community colleges serve a higher number of marginalized student populations.
New research from Cengage and Bay View Analytics looks at the learning experience of community college students and what they want for future courses.
The latest installment of the Digital Learning Pulse Survey found that the majority of community college students today are taking online or hybrid courses and the majority give their learning experience good marks. When it comes to how community college students want to learn in the future, most say they want more digital options and at least some courses fully online.
The Digital Learning Pulse Survey is an ongoing research project to understand how the pandemic is changing higher education. The survey had more than 4,300 respondents across higher education – 2,266 students, 1,248 faculty and 831 administrators, and was conducted by Bay View Analytics on behalf of primary partner and underwriter Cengage, as well as the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Achieving the Dream (ATD), Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the Higher Education Research & Development Institute (HERDI) and College Pulse.
“For all of the disruption that COVID-19 has caused for students, community college students continue to believe that their educational needs are being well-met. In addition, students appreciate many of the changes that the move to online has produced and desire more online options in the future,” said Dr. Jeff Seaman, lead researcher and Director of Bay View Analytics.
Key takeaways from the survey include:
- In-person learning increased from Spring 2021 to Fall 2021: While the majority of two-year students today take online or hybrid classes (78%), more students are taking only in-person classes this Fall (22%) compared to last Spring (14%).
- Students give higher marks for learning experiences in Fall 2021 vs. Spring 2021. Nearly half (48%) of all students gave Fall 2021 learning an “A” grade, compared to 40% “A” grades for Spring 2021.
- Students more satisfied with in-person learning but want flexibility: Students who are taking in-person-only courses were more likely to give their learning experience an “A” (59%), compared to students in online courses (44%) and those in hybrid courses (49%). However, students taking only in-person courses reported more problems with work and technology.
- Students report less well–being than faculty or administrators: Sixty-two percent of students reported having a feeling of personal well-being compared to 80% of faculty and 82% of administrators.
- Majority of students prefer some courses fully online and want more digital tools. The majority of two-year students (68%) want to take some courses fully online post-pandemic. Sixty-three percent of students want more digital materials and resources in their courses.
“Understanding the unique challenges and needs of community college students is critical to holistically and equitably supporting their success during their academic journeys,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of ATD. “We are excited to be a partner in this research effort that aligns with ATD’s deep commitment to building stronger pipelines to and through postsecondary education.”
“The latest Digital Learning Pulse Survey findings are both heartening and useful for community college leaders,” said ACCT President and CEO Jee Hang Lee. “Our students are satisfied with the quality of instruction they receive, which is most important. The survey helps us to understand that students throughout the country need more flexible learning options, including more online courses and digital course materials, to accommodate their busy lifestyles.”
“Community college students are typically non-traditional, meaning they manage many pressures in addition to their course work – such as family care and full-time work. They need access to quality education that is flexible and affordable,” said Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager for U.S. Higher Education at Cengage Group. “We’re excited to provide ongoing support for schools as they continue to experiment with new models and digital resources that deliver on students’ need for flexibility and accessibility.”
Material from a press release was used in this report.
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