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  • Auston Stamm

Online Report Card Report & Fostering Persistence In Online Learning

Laptop with a cartoon teacher pointing to online education written in chalk
Online Education

Discuss 2 – 3 critical issues you discovered in the report entitled, Online Report Card: Tracing Online Education in the United States (2016).

The first thing that stood out to me with this report is that the data is from around 2014. The report found that students taking at least one online course has increased from 3.7% to 3.9% from 2013 to 2014. I believe post pandemic the amount of students taking at least one online course is much higher. The pandemic introduced online courses to many undergraduate and graduate students.

In addition, the report highlights that 28.6% of academic leaders felt that online education was inferior to in-person learning in 2015. I believe that that number may have increased because of the switch to remote learning. The pandemic forced a lot of professors to switch to online teaching without an understanding of how to utilize the format. This probably led to a decrease in course quality because professors were trying to keep their lecture based courses without adapting them to online format. The online format has a lot of potential to promote interactivity, autonomy and constructivist learning theory. Educators probably need more training so that they can learn the different tools needed to teach online successfully. I believe that mostly in-person programs that only offer a few online courses may be further behind in quality than schools that offer fully online programs. This trend was highlighted in the report, which found that schools that have larger online programs are rated more favorably than schools with smaller online programs

I work at Saint Mary's College, which is a small private institution that offers very few fully online programs. I believe these institutions place a lot of value on in-person learning and are hesitant to adopt fully online or hybrid programs. However, I have noticed over time that enrollment numbers have been decreasing for private institutions in part because of how expensive private education is. In addition, lower birth rates are leading to a smaller pool of first year undergraduate students, which makes recruitment more difficult. I think that hyflex courses might be a way to combat issues with lower enrollment. This would allow schools to use the same courses with an in-person and online track. The online students would help boost revenues and enrollment, while in-person learning could still be the institution's main focus.

Lastly, the report highlighted how public institutions have the largest amount of online learners with over 70% of undergraduate students. I believe that this continues to be true because online learning helps make education more accessible for working students. I have a friend who works for the California Community Colleges and they are trying to offer all of their online courses to any student enrolled at a California Community College. This means that a student enrolled at a community college in Northern California is eligible to take an online course being offered at a community college in Southern California. I think this kind of centralization, will lead to even more students taking online courses. I believe that something similar will eventually be offered by state universities too. This is because online learning removes physical boundaries and makes a wider array of courses available to students.

Discuss challenges that affect learners' persistence in online course and relate these challenges to your own online teaching or learning experiences.

A major issue with online courses is that the student needs to check in to the class to know what is due. Students who attend in-person classes are usually reminded by the professor of upcoming deadlines. However, students enrolled in online classes usually need to be self motivated to check about upcoming deadlines. Sometimes professors will email the class each week with an update regarding upcoming assignments. I am very interested in software like Boost, which pushes out assignment reminders to students' smartphones. These reminders can boost engagement by encouraging students to check the LMS and to not forget upcoming assignments. I feel that these kinds of notifications align well with Pascarella's General Model For Accessing Change. The assignment reminders and class announcements provided by professors help to build student engagement through consistent interactions.

A model that I found very interesting is Rovai's Composite Persistence Model. This is because this model includes aspects like the student's computer skills, time management, finances and internal factors like commitment. I think this model's holistic framework is unique because it takes into account the different aspects of student learning. For example, students need to have a good grasp of how to use the computer to be successful students in an online learning environment. In addition, external pressures like family or finances can affect academic performance. I think professors need to think about these different factors when designing an online course and build in some level of flexibility.

Allen, E., Seaman, J., & Poulin, R., & Straut, T. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group & Quahog Research Group.

Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. Jossey-Bass.

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