By Sarah Finkelstein | October 10, 2022
Photo Credit: Pixabay
College students became more satisfied with online courses after the COVID-19 pandemic because of schedule flexibility, proximity to home, and personal comfort – according to a recent university study.
In the Sept. 2022 survey from Wiley University, 94% of 2,500 respondents stated that they had a positive attitude toward online learning, compared to 86% before the pandemic.
In 2020, universities across the country were forced to go remote to protect students and faculty. This transition proved to be a difficult task with professors needing to adapt quickly to the new format.
“The pandemic brought about valuable new ways of teaching that teachers continue to use,” said Carla Meskill, a professor of education theory at UAlbany who studied professors' transition to remote learning during the pandemic and the lessons they learned. Online learning allows for more personal connection and productivity, leading to increased student satisfaction, said Meskill. Although abrupt, the transition to online classes allowed professors to learn new digital skills and teaching strategies that benefited students' online experiences, she added.
According to the survey from Wiley University, 44% of the respondents preferred online courses from institutions less than 50 miles away from their homes. Respondents to the survey described proximity to home as an important factor since it allows online students the opportunity to visit the campus, connect with professors, attend other in-person classes, and participate in extracurriculars.
Out of the survey’s prospective, current, and recently graduated college online learners, 69% prefer working on courses at their own pace, with no set meeting time due to competing priorities such as family responsibility and employment. Additionally, 21% stated that they never want to take an online class that has a set meeting time.
According to the survey, “77% of learners reported they decided on the online modality before any other factor, such as school or program.” In fact, 60% stated that they would transfer to a different university for an online program if their university did not provide it.
“The pandemic brought forward voices from both the anti- and pro-online learning camps,” said Meskill. “Students who missed the traditional classroom returned to in-person, however, many college students found it much more comfortable and conducive to learning to study at home online.”
Personal comfort is an important factor for online learners. Online learning allows students to participate more without fear of judgment. “I’ve heard from many students that learning online was the first time in their years of schooling that they felt they had a voice and could enjoy full, uninterrupted participation in rich discussions with their instructor and fellow students,” said Meskill. “This was in contrast to the physical classroom where a few dominated discussions.”
This survey describes similar results to other research projects completed after the pandemic. According to the 2021 survey from Cengage, three-quarters of the study’s 3,500 respondents who are “currently taking online courses desire the option to take more in the future.” However, this survey also describes online students' increased anxiety since they feel more personally responsible for their work.
Following student demands for more online classes, the University at Albany plans to add more online classes in the near future, bringing full majors and minors online, according to Mike Nolan, UAlbany Senior Communications Specialist.