Jul 28, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

A new report from The Learning House and Aslanian market Research suggests that students want interaction and community in their online learning experiences. 

The report, “Online College Students 2017: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” surveyed 1,500 students who are “seriously considering, currently enrolled in, or have recently graduated from a fully online program.”

Over 50 percent of those surveyed said that their academic community is important.  25 percent reported that to improve their online classes, they would like to have “more contact with their instructors and more engagement with classmates.”  Nearly 60 percent said that they travel to campus between one and five times each year to meet an instructor, attend a study group, or otherwise engage in their academic community.

What else did the survey find?  Online students are looking further and wider to find a program that they want.  While most opt to stick close to home, 52 percent requested information from at least three schools.

Some online students experience buyer’s remorse.  59 percent would change how they did their initial search.  23 percent wished that they had contacted more schools during their search.

Another interesting tidbit?  Competency-based education is important to online learners.  With increased awareness of competency-based programs, many deem this type of online education important.  18 percent enrolled in competency-based programs and 53 percent would “definitely consider such a program.” 

Job security is another factor making an impact on online education in 2017.  80 percent of those surveyed said that they were in an online program to either advance or change their job.  77 percent use the career services office at their school.

Recommendations for online programs, according to the report?  Online programs should cater to students’ career goals.  Admissions offices also need to respond quickly and thoroughly to students’ questions and offer clear figures on financial aid and transfer credits.

For online learning to succeed in 2017, schools need to meet the demands of their students—and make them feel welcome in the process.

Learn more about studying online.   


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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