Trust in online education on the rise

A recent Gallup poll has revealed that Americans are increasingly valuing the quality of online colleges and universities.

online-education-pollA growing trust in digital institutions is occurring with online learning. According to a new Gallup poll, more U.S. adults (out of a random sample of about 1,000) agree or strongly agree that online colleges and universities offer high-quality education.

The 37 percent of adults polled, who agreed with idea that online instructions offer high-quality education in the Gallup-Luminia Foundation Poll on Higher Education, represent a respectable increase among a similar group polled in 2011, when only 30 percent of those polled responded positively to the question. A neutral stance was taken by 34 percent of those polled.

Additionally, as would be expected, with a rise in those who agreed or strongly agreed with the idea that online institutions offer high-quality education, the percentage of those polled that disagreed or strongly disagreed with the assertion has decreased. Although 31 percent of U.S. adults disagreed or strongly disagreed in the 2011 poll, the 2014 poll now shows that only 27 percent of respondents disagree or strongly disagree with the idea.

All in all, these results represent a respectable increase in trust for online education, showing that more than 1 in 3 people respect the quality of learning within online higher education, compared to little more than 1 out of every 4 people who do not. This shows that the nearly 250 online colleges in the U.S. are gaining significant traction with the public.

(Next page: Implications and a way to go)

This carries highly positive implications not only for existing online colleges and universities, but for the future of online education as a whole.

With more Americans placing their trust in online education, this could not only lead new and existing schools to continue delivering high-quality education, but may even push some schools to strive to standout and be the best in this growing field.

Furthermore, existing traditional higher education intuitions may even begin to offer more of their own programs online if they see there is a respectable demand for those services from the public. With more options for achieving in higher education for all, everyone wins, and these poll results definitely signal a step in the right direction for online colleges and universities.

Even though the results of this Gallup poll are a major validation of the quality of online education at this time, further results in the study show that online institutions still do not carry as much weight as traditional institutions in the minds of both the public and, perhaps more importantly, employers.

According to the most recent poll, 77 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that traditional colleges and universities offer high-quality education, compared to only 5 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the assertion. Similarly, 58 percent believed that community colleges offer high-quality education, compared to 13 percent who disagreed or strongly disagreed and 30 percent who were neutral. These figures are either closely similar or better than the results from 2011, indicating a steady trust in traditional institutions that is still a good deal higher than the trust in online institutions, even for community colleges.

What is perhaps still a sign of skepticism in regards to online institutions, though, is the fact that U.S. business leaders are still not likely to hire a candidate with an online degree compared to a candidate with a traditional degree.

Only 14 percent of employers polled said they would be very likely hire an online candidate over a traditional one for their own business, and 33 percent said they would at least feel somewhat likely to do so, with another 33 percent saying they did not think it would be very likely. Unfortunately, 17 percent of these employers said it would be not at all likely for them to hire a candidate with an online degree over a candidate with a degree from a traditional institution.

Being far newer, nobody should expect online colleges and universities to be as trusted as traditional ones just yet, explains the survey.

Ron Bethke is an editorial freelancer for eCampus News

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