Students who previously wouldn’t have enrolled into college are now doing so because of online education, according to a new report. Online College Students 2016: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences counters some common misconceptions about online students and their preferences.
“This research demonstrates the important access that online education provides to students, while also highlighting the competitive and rapidly growing nature of the industry,” David Clinefelter, chief academic officer of Learning House and an author of the report, said in an article for eCampus News. “Current estimates place the number of students working towards their degrees online at 3.5 million; we expect that number to grow to five million by 2020. Institutions of higher learning cannot afford to ignore this population, nor can they resist catering to their needs and inclinations when it comes to choosing the program that is right for them.”
The research found that cost is the main factor for students in picking an online institution to attend, but even a small incentive can help. Students apply to online programs offered by colleges that are close to home, with 75% visiting the main campus at least once during the year.
About two-thirds of the responding students weren’t familiar with alternative learning pathways such as massive open online courses and micro degrees, and 55% who did know about alternative credentials never considered them while searching for an online program. The report advised colleges and universities looking into these programs to do a better job of communicating the value offered to students.
Online students choose and apply for programs in which they’re interested much quicker than was commonly thought. The research also found that while business remains the top online program for graduate students, computer and IT courses have surpassed education in popularity.