In this post I want to set priorities, but before doing that, I need to add a couple of other purposes which I took for granted. Indeed I should have started with these…
The most important reason for online learning for most institutions was to increase student access, with 95% of institutions rating it as either important (23%) or very important (72%). Closely linked in second place was the opportunity to access students from outside the regular catchment area (88%).
This is no surprise: student access and flexibility have always been a priority for online learning, bringing in new students, and enabling students with part-time or full time responsibilities in work and/or family to pursue their studies.
Also rated as important (82%) was to increase the rate of credential completion, presumably by allowing students to take courses online that would not otherwise be available on campus because numbers were capped or courses were not offered on campus in some semesters. A high proportion of institutions (77%) also rated student retention highly. I interpret this to mean that although completion rates for individual courses may be slightly lower for online than campus-based courses, the flexibility they provide allow more students to complete overall.
Getting down the list we see the value of online learning for ‘providing pedagogic improvements’ (71%), a pretty general category that might include developing skills for a digital society.
Ranked at the very bottom of reasons offered to institutions was to reduce or contain costs, but even here 47% of institutions ranked this as important.
It is important though to remember that this question asked for opinions. Although the survey went to institutional leaders, such as Provosts, it is probably answered by several different people in the same institution. Knowing their opinions is valuable, but it’s not quite the same as identifying actual priorities in terms of resource allocation, for instance.
by Tony Bates