- According to a new report from The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research, "The Online College Students 2017: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences," online students want more interaction with instructors and fellow students.
- The survey included 1,500 students who were currently enrolled in, recent graduates of, or giving serious consideration to online programs, and more than 50% said that interaction is important, while around 25% said more interaction would improve quality and experience.
- The report recommends that schools improve their programs by better reflecting students' career and educational goals, place more emphasis on responsiveness from admissions, and adapt approaches to accommodate mobile tech — as 80% of respondents said they used their device during their search for a school, while 40% said they used a mobile device to access coursework.
Keeping students engaged can be particularly challenging in online learning — not just when it comes to course material, but in making students feel like part of an institutional community. That sense of engagement can be particularly beneficial due to the impact peer learning and teamwork can have on overall understanding of subject matter, as well as soft skills around teamwork and cooperation in the workplace.
But it's also of particular benefit to the institution. Students who felt engaged as part of a campus community may be more likely to include the institution in their philanthropic giving decades down the line when their degree has paid dividends. While this is much easier to do with students physically on-campus, colleges and universities must contend with the realities of changing student demographics and preferred modes of delivery, utilizing available platforms to increase this sense of belonging in online cohorts. One way to do this may be to match students with similar interests into online study groups, or, if enough students are clustered in a general geographic area, find a way to organize occasional university-sponsored events that allow them to meet face-to-face.