A recent survey by Noel-Levitz and Smarter Services revealed some not-too-surprising results when it comes to student satisfaction with online education.
Older students, who ranked higher in maturity, were pleased with their online education because they were prepared for the dedication and time it takes to succeed in online classes; life experience tends to teach the importance of being organized and tenacious.
On the other side of the coin, traditional-aged college students scored higher in technical expertise overall, and therefore, their satisfaction with online education came more from being able to advance their degree while being in their “comfort zone”- being online.
Regardless of one’s age or experience, there are many overlapping ways in which college students are satisfied with online education.
Because students may have peers from all over the world in their classes, they have an unequaled chance to meet diverse groups of people.
Not only do they enjoy this unique opportunity that is not nearly as possible in the traditional classroom, but they also know that gaining a better understanding of different cultures and types of people will help prepare them for the global job market.
Students just a few years ago were concerned that an online degree would not be accepted by employers as being equivalent to that of a traditional education. But that is no longer the case.
Online students are now mollified with their decision to attend classes online because the growing number of online colleges has legitimized online university degrees.
In every in-person class, there is always that one student who monopolizes the conversation and the professor’s attention. In online classes, this situation is greatly reduced, and all students, including those who would rarely participate in verbal discussions, have an equal voice in the virtual classroom.
Similarly, many students find great freedom in the anonymity they have in online classes. Students can be more open and honest in their opinions when in the online classroom.
The virtual classroom equalizes age, gender, etc. because a student’s name is all that is visible to their peers. Many students feel this affords them more freedom to join in discussions in ways they wouldn’t dare do in the traditional classroom.
With students’ busy schedules, it can be a real challenge to find times to meet with other members of the class to complete group assignments.
This difficulty is leveled greatly when students can meet online, from anywhere they happen to be. Even a small window of time can become accessible since students need not travel to a particular location to meet.
There is also the availability of a central online location for work to be stored so that students can add their contributions whenever is convenient for them, knowing that their group members will be able to access it when they log into the class.
Each individual has their own natural rhythm, and having access to all of the course materials day and night makes it easier for students to work when they are most naturally alert.
Constant access also allows students to listen or watch lectures again and again if they are having difficulty understanding a concept. And let’s not underestimate the physical ease of access to materials.
Students in online classes never need to lug around heavy textbooks all over campus or wait for materials they need for studying to be returned to the library. The ease with which online education offers access to course materials is definitely one aspect that all types of students find gratifying.
Many students find that they have more access to their professors and teaching assistants in their online classes because all communication is done in the class via email.
Students no longer need to wait to get answers to their questions during the times their classes meet in person. This ease of access affords students more flexibility in when they can complete their work.
It is not only peers who bring different world views to the virtual classroom. Professors can teach for multiple online universities all over the world, simultaneously. Students then have the ability to enrich not only their understanding of their field of study, but also their life as a whole.
Students gain a better understanding of the world at large by having access to professors living in different parts of the world and in different cultures. Education, in its broader sense, is therefore enhanced and enriched.
This may seem like an odd concept to discuss regarding online education, but many students find they have more engaged interaction with the professor, their peers and the materials in their online courses. Most in-person classes consist of sitting in an uncomfortable chair while listening to a lecture.
Conversely, while learning online, students claim that they are offered various ways in which to interact with the information they are learning, since the professor can include multiple mediums that create a more engaging learning atmosphere.
Students also have an opportunity to connect with their peers and professors whenever it is convenient, rather than having to run off to make it to their next class across campus.
Online education lends itself to providing a variety of materials for different learning styles. Visual, auditory and tactile learning all come together in the virtual classroom, as professors can include video, audio, chats, supplemental tools, etc. Also, students with disabilities or attention difficulties find online learning more than convenient.
In many cases, traditional classroom learning is impossible for them, but online education works immensely better since they can work at their own pace and can adapt the materials more easily to their personal learning style and needs.
Maneuvering the online classroom is just one more way that students can prepare for the global work force by improving their computer skills. Communication and writing skills can also be greatly improved since communicating with peers and professors is almost exclusively done through the written word rather than the spoken one.
Many college students consider this opportunity to improve their computer, communication and writing skills as an additional bonus to the many other benefits of online education.
It should not be overlook how online education reduces the cost of higher education. Students who take online classes are pleased to find that they cut their cost in transportation, food and clothing since they do not need to be in a particular location several times a week, are not out of the house during meal times and do not need to impress anyone with what they are wearing.
Additionally, recent tax credits offer online students even more of a savings. These cost savings add up over time, and students in all age and experience brackets appreciate this benefit of online education.
Though overall, students state they are very satisfied with their online education, there are always things that could be done better. In the case of online education, most students who participated in the Noel-Levitz and Smarter Services survey specified value vs. tuition, academic quality and timeliness of faculty feedback as the most difficult aspects of online education to deal with. It is important to note also that these three aspects were the same, regardless of student age or experience.
As with all other things in life, sometimes the luck of the draw plays into a student’s satisfaction. However, there are things you can do to ensure your satisfaction when considering online colleges.
Take the time to research various online colleges before choosing one. Online universities are not all the same. Read what other students have to say about their experiences. Talk to real people at the college. What kind of vibe do you get? Do they seem truly interested in serving students?
Consider not only the national ratings of the college, but also compare prices for the degree you are seeking. What are their options for financial aid? What type of a reputation does that online university have in the work force? Find out what the faculty policies are regarding return times on assignments and emails.
Many colleges have unofficial and official social media groups where you can interact with current and former students, staff and professors.
Of course, you will need to “filter” everything since you may end up hearing a lot of bashing that is unfair and biased, but these venues can offer you a way to get a sense of how the college functions and how it treats its students, staff and professors.