Think Globally But Learn Online Locally

online cafe

One thing that MOOCs offered was the opportunity to take courses from top universities with famous faculties for free. Then, companies like Coursera and edX decided that a business model might be to offer those prestigious faculty and schools to learners for a fee. The fee would certainly be far less than the tuition at those prestigious schools, but then again you wouldn't be getting all the benefits of being a student at that school, including getting a degree.

Certainly, there are trade-offs, but it still seems like a good deal. Colleges big and small saw the opportunities and learned some things from the MOOC experiments and it did move online learning in some new directions in higher education and even at the secondary school level.

Despite all these global opportunities to learn, I have been reading that an increasing numbers of online students choose to study locally.

The Online College Students annual study for 2019 found that 84% of current and former fully online students either strongly agreed (44%) or agreed (40%) that their "online education was worth the cost and 47% of current fully online students said they planned to take additional courses from their institution after they earn their current degree.

As stated, this comes at a time when "students, parents and politicians seem to be questioning the value of higher education."

Does online learning appear to be a solution or part of the problem?

Another annual study (from Learning House, Wiley Education & Aslanian Research) that surveyed 1500 current or soon-to-be students in fully online academic programs (for undergraduate or graduate degrees, certificates or licensure)includes a section about how online students decided where, what and how to study.

58 percent of them said they had decided what discipline to study before they decided to study online. 63 percent said they had decided to study online because that fit best with their "current work/life responsibilities." Though we sometimes hear that students use online because it is their "preferred way to learn," only 34 percent gave that response.

The convenience factor is certainly a good part of why fully online students are still staying close to home. Though the surveys did not address this, I suspect that some students, though online, want to be able to access services (such as the library and counseling), offices, faculty and perhaps some campus events so that their online life has some real life college experiences too.

In my own experience with online programs, we also discovered that a majority of our online students lived within 50 miles of a campus or service center of the college where they are studying. In the latter survey, 67 percent of respondents were withing 50 miles and that was up from 42 percent just five years ago.

Some other takeaways:

  • "The growing number of schools offering online programs provides students with more options closer to their home. Local schools have greater visibility among employers and others in the community, which is valuable to students."
  • More than 80 percent of current and former students agreed that their online program improved their mastery of various "soft skills" such as critical thinking and problem solving, time management, and attention to detail.
  • Nearly three in five students age 45 or under said they completed some or most of their course-related activities using mobile devices, while another 17 percent said they would have liked to have gone mobile. NOTE Only 27 percent of students 46 or older said they had completed course work on mobile, and 51 percent said they would not want to.


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