Friday, May 3, 2013

What Online Courses Do Students Prefer and Not Prefer?

According to a recent study by Columbia University’s Teachers College Community College Research Center, students prefer to take easy courses online and hard courses the old fashioned way:

In continually expanding the supply of online course sections (and potentially curtailing face-to-face offerings), college administrators believe they are serving the needs and demands of their students. Yet researchers have neglected to ask students whether the continued provision of face-to-face courses is important to them.

This paper discusses community college students’ experiences with online and face-to-face learning, as well as their reasons for selecting online versus face-to-face sections of specific courses. Students reported that online courses had lower levels of instructor presence and that they thus needed to “teach themselves” in these courses. Accordingly, most students preferred to take only “easy” academic subjects online; they preferred to take “difficult” or “important” subjects face-to-face. The results of this paper suggest that colleges need to take care to avoid curtailing the availability of face-to-face course sections, particularly in academically challenging or advanced areas of study.

The study’s subjects were community college students; however, I strongly suspect that the results would be the same for our students. You can read the report here.


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There should be no "easy" courses. An "easy" course is selling students short, either in coverage, depth of analysis, level of expectations, intensity of thought, or scope of examination. It's one thing if a course is easy for the Einstein in the class; it's another if the entire class or most of the class considers it to be a piece of cake. Life that awaits the student is not easy, and preparation should match that for which students are being prepared.

Posted by: Jim Maule | May 4, 2013 5:19:37 AM

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