- Students are reporting more satisfaction and ROI from their online learning programs
- See related article: When it comes to recruitment, websites are key
The COVID pandemic emphasized the need for robust online and hybrid learning options for students, particularly as the nontraditional student population, which needs flexibility due to personal, professional, and family obligations, grows.
Now, BestColleges’ ninth annual Online Education Trends Report is shedding light on some of the most recent developments in online education, tracking current trends through data collected from current, former, and prospective students and school administrators. The report, authored by Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D., an online education advisor for BestColleges, represents the site’s seventh year of original data collection via online surveys, with participation from 1,800 students and 131 school administrators.
This year’s findings are grouped according to the learning experience, marketing and recruitment, student satisfaction, and planning for the future.
The learning experience
- Students want convenience in their programs–it’s the top motivator when enrolling in an online program, as more than one-third (42 percent) of the online students surveyed this year indicated.
- Parallel online and on-campus degree programs at a given institution may differ in a number of ways, including their tuition and fees, learning objectives, and instructors.
- Students are concerned about balancing their education commitments with work, family, and household obligations. In fact, that concern remains the primary concern for online (27 percent), hybrid (27 percent), and prospective (39 percent) students.
Planning for the future
- Nearly half (47 percent) of this year’s surveyed school administrators said their schools are boosting spending for online learning programs, an increase from the previous two years where budgets were largely anticipated to remain steady during the pandemic.
- Health professions (including nursing) and computer and information science programs are expected to see the most enrollment growth online over the next five years.
- Slightly more than one-third (37 percent) of school administrators surveyed say their institutions are actively researching the possibilities of immersive technologies, such as virtual reality and the metaverse, for use in online courses and programs.
Marketing and recruitment
- The biggest challenges students face around online learning program enrollment decisions include identifying an online program to meet their needs and interests, applying for financial aid and identifying sufficient funding sources, and estimating actual costs.
- When students search for information about online programs, they rely most on college websites and online student reviews.
- For the seventh year in a row, the biggest regret of online program graduates is not conducting more research about cost and financial aid (30 percent).
- A majority of students surveyed said they would recommend online education to others, including 98 percent of current online students, 96 percent of online program graduates, and 94 percent of hybrid students.
- This year, 96 percent of all students surveyed said their online degree program has had or will have a positive return on investment–the highest percentage in the history of this report.
- Fewer students reported being unsure about how online education compares to on-campus learning this year, and three-quarters (75 percent) said that online is better than or equal to on-campus learning.
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