Q&A: Top Trends to Understand for Successful Online Courses
EDTECH: What do you think are the most important elements for the success of online or hybrid courses in the future?
VENABLE: Interaction is so important. Over the past year, many people have discovered that publishing course materials and recorded lectures online is just the start, not the most effective strategy for success. Students want and need to be connected in these classes. They need to feel connected to the content, with each other and with their teachers. We might also see a call for more flexible courses, designed so that they can be offered in a variety of formats, from completely online to completely in person, meeting the different needs of different learners.
Universities and colleges should become more aware of the experiences and needs of their students. Finding balance was a major concern of online students participating in our survey this year. Academic support is essential, but schools can do more to help their students graduate.
From a practical standpoint, widespread broadband Internet access will be essential for the success of e-learning. The pandemic has exposed what many are calling a digital divide between students, and as school administrators told us in another recent survey, this can no longer be ignored.
EDTECH: It’s no surprise that students are less concerned with what employers think about online education right now. Is there any evidence to suggest this trend will survive the pandemic?
VENABLE: Only time will tell, but I think we’ll see some of that stick even after college campuses return to normal operations. For example, in our recent annual survey of U.S. business leaders, 56% said online education is better or equal to learning on campus. This figure was up from 49% in 2020. Those who say it’s better fell from 14% to 31%.
Additionally, we found that about half of students learning remotely due to campus closures in 2020 said they would likely enroll in an online course once their campuses open. We are seeing greater acceptance of online education, and perhaps awareness of its potential benefits, from both students and employers.
EDTECH: It is really interesting that young people trust student reviews on college websites. How can colleges turn this information into action for their enrollment services?
VENABLE: These days, making a large purchase usually involves looking for reviews of some kind. Hearing from people who have first hand experience with a product or experience can be powerful. Higher education is no exception. We’ve polled students on online student assessment sites in general, and there are plenty to choose from.
Enrollment desks should know how potential students connect to information about their school’s online programs, including student assessment sites. These offices should also check their websites to ensure that they are providing students with the information they need to make decisions about enrollment. Students tell us that they have difficulty estimating real costs, for example, and finding a program that meets their needs well. Schools may also want to provide more testimonials and profiles of students and alumni that include comments on their experiences.