Every year an increasing number of students take to their computers and access education through online or distance learning programmes.
The report found that increasing annual numbers of online students are set to slow by 2019. In 2017 alone online programmes saw an increase of 3 percent, totalling 3.85 million full or majority distance learning candidates worldwide, but this is likely to reduce in coming years according to Eduventures.
The market is expected to peak at 4 million students in 2019 and 2020 before leveling off as the global economy improves and the number of high school graduates falls.
Cost matters to online college students but does not rule their selection process when choosing a course or program. More findings from @learninghouse & @AslanianMktRes 2018 Online College Student Report via @insidehighered https://t.co/AP5mHzcpjV
— Alyssa Miller (@AlyssaMiller3D) June 13, 2018
Competition is also getting fiercer among institutions that provide online learning as they strive to outdo each other and prove they can help students reach their goals, or risk losing out to other, more competent providers.
The report revealed four key findings; courses must be mobile-friendly, online students need access to career services, online learning is good value for money, and online programs are becoming increasingly diverse.
Why content must be mobile-friendly
We are in a digital age. It makes sense, therefore, that online learning exists in itself, but as technology advances, online learning methods must also advance.
Every online student is bound to have a smart phone or tablet and the majority are likely to use these tools throughout their studies. Long gone are the days when you had to stay in one place to access the internet or type up an essay; modern students are doing it all on the go.
The report found that 87 percent of prospective online students use their mobile phones to search for potential programmes online and 67 percent of have even completed online coursework through their smart phones since being enrolled.
If colleges and universities want to keep up, it seems imperative they adapt their websites and course content to effectively function via a mobile platform.
Why online students need access to career support
Why do the majority of students go to university? To better their chances of landing their dream job, of course. So, why would it be any different for online students?
According to the Learning House report it’s not. Three quarters of online university students claimed they had undertaken their degree for ‘career-focused reasons’.
It’s crucial, therefore, that online students have the same access to careers advice and services as their campus-dwelling peers.
Half of all online students reported using a career advisor whenever offered, while 48 percent sought résumé help and 40 percent claimed assistance with their job search.
Considering the goal of advancing their career is at the forefront of most online student minds, universities would likely miss out on key talent if they failed to provide solid career support.
The report stated that “online access to career services is an integral part of a high-touch institution’s value” as they become more and more crucial to students’ success after graduation.
What return are online students getting on their investment?
It turns out that the majority of online students are feeling positive about the value of their education. The report found that 86 percent of students undertaking a distance learning programme felt the value of their degree either equals or exceeds the cost they paid for it.
When those who had experienced in-person classrooms as well as the virtual version were asked, an impressive 85 percent of them reported online learning is as good as or even better value than on-campus lessons.
What are students choosing to study online?
Business and education programmes have always been some of the most popular courses for graduates and undergraduates studying online, but the 2018 study has now found a significant increase in interest for subjects in a wider pool of fields.
This is especially so for graduate studies where courses in IT and computers, health and medicine and a number of STEM subjects have seen steady growth over the last four years.
The report concluded that institutions who diversify online programmes should be able to capitalise on the increased interest in a broader range of subjects.
Learning House and AMR surveyed 1,500 recent graduates, and current and prospective students for online programmes with the aims of determining what matters to them most.