Online education gives adults access, but student results lag
BOSTON – Is online education helping cities and states improve access to post-secondary education and success for undergraduates who need it most?
No hour-long presentation can reasonably claim to answer this question, and the kind of data that could present a clear yes or no verdict probably does not yet exist. But Richard Garrett, director of research at Eduventures, put together an intriguing set of statistics and claims at the group’s annual summit, Superior Edition remastered, here last week.
Using federal data on online listings, prices, and completions, as well as state-by-state data from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, Garrett argued that online education helped remove tuition fees paid by mature students, and that colleges that enroll large numbers of students online dramatically increase access to higher education for mature students.
But the data also shows that students at these institutions graduate at significantly lower rates than at institutions where face-to-face and blended learning styles dominate.
This “conundrum,” as Garrett called it – that online sex education on Dirty Roulette expands access but on average lowers students’ chances of completion” – raises questions about the extent to which colleges, states and others should encourage fully online or more blended education. forms of learning, which may be less available in practice and more expensive, but more likely to lead to student success, he argued.
“Many schools have rushed to be fully online as the one thing adults will tolerate,” because of the convenience and affordability of these programs, Garrett said. “But this data suggests that you can’t just go with the convenience and cost of accommodating busy adult cam, if the evidence indicates that the mix may be better for them educationally.”
Garrett said that as a longtime student of the online learning market, he wanted to tap into the newly available data sources to try and paint a picture of the landscape that explained local and regional differences and tried to ‘assess not only where students were enrolling. but how they were doing educationally.
Among the data sources he used was the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which counted online registrations. for a few years only; New IPEDS data on outcome measures, which for the first time now includes students who are not enrolled full-time and for the first time and follows them for eight years instead of six; and NC-SARA statistics, which track state-level online registrations.
Much of Garrett’s presentation tapped into this data to show the extent to which different states and cities (especially those with lower-than-average proportions of adults with a bachelor’s degree) appear to rely heavily on education. online to increase post-secondary education.
Among the data points he presented:
- While the number of traditional-age undergraduates increased by 3% between 2012 and 2017, the number of fully online undergraduates increased by 11% during this period (to around 2%). , 25 million), while the number of adult undergraduates actually declined by 23%.
- About 13% of all undergraduates study entirely online, and about 8% study entirely online at an institution based in the state where they live. “So while the web is seen as a rejection of windward geography, allowing the student to study not only where they live,” that’s not necessarily how the market moves, Garrett said.
- Several cities whose residents have the greatest economic need also have higher-than-average proportions of students studying online at public institutions, suggesting that these cities have decided that online education can play a role. in reducing economic gaps. In Birmingham, Alabama, for example, 12% of all residents study fully online at colleges within state borders, while in Detroit and Hartford, Connecticut, the numbers are only 5.3 and 5.2%, respectively.
“In some cities the Internet plays a role where it’s needed the most, in others it is a little part of it,” Garrett said. “Would these cities want the Internet to be present or have they deliberately rejected it as a potential solution?”
Few cities have a higher education strategy at all, let alone an e-learning strategy. But many states have set higher education goals for their citizens, and Garrett sought to compare how states with the lowest post-secondary rates are using online education.
The map below shows that 11 of the 20 states with the lowest bachelor’s graduation rates (which Garrett says is just a measure of college level) are also on the list of states where the largest proportion of residents study online at state institutions.
And this map shows that 15 of the 20 states with the lowest bachelor’s graduation rates are found in the top 20 states in terms of the proportion of their students who are at institutions that significantly combine online and in-person study.
Judging the performance of online education only
As states, cities, and schools decide how best to deliver higher education equitably, what should they consider – and what evidence is there to date on what? works best?
Garrett sought to leverage existing data to assess how well online education is meeting its ability to make affordable, high-quality learning more widely available. The fact that the data available is imperfect, as he pointed out, did not prevent him from gauging some national trends.
Online, this is clearly where the growth is, especially when it comes to adult enrollment. The slide below shows the change in enrollment for people aged 25 and over from 2007 to 2015, based on the percentages of college students studying online. In 2007, colleges with “very low” proportions of students studying entirely online enrolled 31 percent of all mature students, while institutions with “very high” levels of fully online enrollment enrolled about 12 percent older students.
In 2015, this last category of institutions enrolled 28% of mature students (see the rising red line in the graph below), thus becoming the undisputed leader.
The image of affordability also looks good on the web, Garrett noted. As shown in the slide below, tuition and net fees at colleges without students studying online (the ‘zero’ online institutions represented by the black line at the top) increased by 12% between 2012 and 2015. , while those with a “very high” level online – only registrations saw their prices drop by 8%. (Tuition has risen 16% over this period at colleges with “high” online-only enrollments, an anomaly according to Garrett would require further study.)
Garrett acknowledged that the decline in tuition income at heavily online institutions could be attributed to the decline of for-profit colleges, but many of the fastest growing online colleges are non-profit institutions that also use their scale to keep their prices low, he said. .
Student success? Not so much, Garrett suggested.
Citing the first-ever federal data examining the eight-year outcomes of all post-secondary students, including those who are not full-time first-time students (which many federal education databases still have limited), Garrett noted that students enrolled in institutions where a very high proportion of education is provided entirely online were much less likely than students of other types of colleges to graduate from the same institution in the eight years.
In comparison, students at colleges and universities where a very high proportion of their students some of their online courses yielded similar results to colleges with little online education, especially for part-time students and those not for the first time. This is consistent with much of the research on learning effectiveness which tends to show that blended learning outperforms learning entirely online and in person.
The Eduventures Summit is heavily populated by heads of institutions active in the e-learning space, and Garrett has been careful not to imply that he thinks investing in e-learning is the wrong strategy.
But he said it was important for institutional leaders and state policymakers to ensure that they are not “convenient and flexible trade for true transformation.” [student] results, ”he said.
An institution must promote programs entirely online if it is to compete in a national higher education market, but how many colleges can compete at this level? he said.
Or should more colleges, Garrett wondered, focus on serving residents of their states, saying, “We’ll give you enough online … to make higher education convenient, but give you access to the? campus, to faculty, to other students… what could be the most engaging experience?
“The data may not yet be perfect enough to answer questions like these,” Garrett said, “but it allows us to ask better, more rounded questions.”