According to new research, 74 percent of college students thought that online learning was better than or equal to on-campus learning. BestColleges.com released the 2021 edition of its annual Online Education Trends Report, which it has published since 2014.
The report comes as nearly every college had to shift to distance or hybrid learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of more students enrolling in online courses, the report found that perceptions around distance learning continue to improve. Nearly all students surveyed (95 percent) and the vast majority (83 percent) of remote learners said they would recommend online or remote learning to others. Additionally, of the 500 remote learners surveyed, almost half (49 percent) expected to enroll in online courses even after campuses fully reopen.
The improved perception of online learning isn’t limited to students. One-third of administrators plan to continue with both remote and online course options post-pandemic. Additionally, 83 percent believe there will be an increased need for online courses in years to come. Nearly one-third of remote students believe that the impact of COVID-19-related changes on their college experience will have lasting effects on their mental health. Roughly one-quarter of students believe it will be more difficult to find a job after graduating college.
“While the positive responses among students and administrators is encouraging, the impact of COVID-19-related changes on college students’ lives may have multiple long-term effects,” said Melissa Venable, Ph.D., the report’s author and online education advisor for BestColleges.com. “Our findings suggest that while remote students may be more open to enroll in an online course, they have heightened concerns about their health and wellness, as well as their future employability.”
Comparing these findings to previous years, BestColleges.com said that students’ decision-making process has shifted. “For the first time since conducting this survey, students indicated ‘finding a program that meets students’ needs and interests as the biggest challenge when choosing an online program.” The report said that this marks a shift from previous years’ findings when students frequently indicated “actual costs” and “applying for financial aid” as the top two challenges.
“This may be a result of several factors, such as the growing number of online programs available, demand for something that isn’t available, or difficulty locating needed information,” said Venable. “With a growing number of online programs to choose from, the college selection process can be overwhelming for students, who don’t always have all the information they need to make the best decisions.”