Considerations for Online Education

Recently Best Colleges released their 2020 Online Education Trends Report. While this information is valuable for college administrators, it is also helpful for students looking into accredited online educational programs. The following are highlights of key trends and considerations from students and alumni of online higher education programs taken from the report.

If you or someone you know is looking for an online program, make a note of the considerations presented below that are important for you. Then as you explore the programs available at various institutions, rank them according to how they stack up against your needs.

Some General Trends

The demand for online programs continues to be high – 99% of administrators say they saw an increase in demand last year or that demand has stayed the same in the past few years.

Student satisfaction with online learning is high – overall, 94% of students surveyed say it has, or will have, a positive return on investment and 95% would recommend online education to others.

Note that with the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, more higher education institutions are pivoting to online and blended classes. Prospective students interested in online education will have more choices to compare. Helpful information for deciding on an online program will continue to be valuable in the days ahead.

Rationale for Choosing an Online Program

Regarding the rationale for choosing online education, the “convenience and flexibility to study around existing commitments” topped the list at 52%. This was followed by “not having other options to pursue their fields of interest” at 22%, and “employer incentives or partnerships with online education providers” at 17%.

Challenges in Choosing an Online Program

The top challenges students reported in choosing an online program included (in order of importance):

  1. Estimating actual costs (tuition, books, etc.)
  2. Applying for financial aid and identifying sufficient funding sources
  3. Finding a program that “meets my needs and interests”
  4. Finding sufficient information about academic requirements
  5. Contacting a real person to ask detailed questions about specific programs
  6. When applicable, finding information about how graduates fared in the job market

Reflections from Alumni of Online Programs

For the fourth year in a row, online program alumni have said they would “compare more programs” (26%) and “do more research about costs and financial aid” (25%) if they had to do it over again. Additionally they would do more research into transferability of their existing credits, gain a better understanding of how long it will take to complete the program, and research faculty experience and credentials.

The survey of alumni also identified seven potential roadblocks in completing online programs.

  1. Paying for higher education while minimizing student debt (35%)
  2. Unexpected circumstances or events in my personal life (20%)
  3. Staying on track with my classes so I could graduate in the planned time frame (17%)
  4. Not having enough of my transfer credits count toward degree requirements (11%)
  5. Having access to the required technology or internet connectivity (6%)
  6. Maintaining a minimum GPA (5%)
  7. Scheduling on-campus visits (where required) to support my program (testing, orientation, tutoring, etc.) (5%)

For more information on choosing an online Christian program, download our free tip sheet.

Written by Chris Reeves, President
August 3, 2020

President Reeves is a founding member of Shiloh University’s Board of Trustees and is responsible for the University’s operations and executive leadership.

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