Three in four online students said this week in a national survey that they were satisfied with their college experience, though the quality of online instruction is a lingering concern.
The 75 percent satisfaction rate among web-based students was markedly higher than the 55 percent rate among traditional campus-based students surveyed by Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm that publishes the annual “National Online Learners Priorities Report.”
The report gauges student perception of various kinds of post-secondary education, and how they’ve changed in recent years.
Online learning satisfaction levels were high, but instructional quality was pegged as a primary concern among those who took online classes.
Julie Bryant, associate vice president at Noel-Levitz and author of the report, said it was the very nature of online college courses that created concern about the overall quality of instruction.
“Creating connections with students is the great challenge of online education,” Bryant said. “How do you keep student interest and involvement when their ‘classroom’ is a computer screen? That’s precisely why so many online programs survey their students about their satisfaction levels.”
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High satisfaction levels aren’t simply a measure of students’ feelings about their degree pursuit, Bryant said, but an important indicator in whether students are willing to continue their education and persist even through the most difficult courses.
“Satisfaction assessment plays a key role in institutional accountability,” she said. “On the one hand, it provides a ‘grade’ if you will, of institutional performance. On the other, and more importantly, it provides data to the campus for planning—not just areas of challenges, but areas of strength where campuses can demonstrate value.”
College students from every type of campus — online, public, private, technical and otherwise — said the cost of education was the most important factor in determining their satisfaction. Bryant said that may have been a boon for online students’ high satisfaction levels.
“With the rising cost of college, students and their families are certainly becoming more critical about the advantages of a college education and whether it’s ‘worth it,'” she said.
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