Here are the main points I took from the September 2022 Wiley Voice of the Online Learner Survey.
- 94% of online learners in the survey said they have a positive or very positive view of online learning, up from 86% before the pandemic. And 83% said they would learn online again.
- Modality is the top reason learners choose online programs followed by the particular field of study was the most important (82%), followed by tuition and fees (74%), and time to complete the program (68%). However, when it came to finally apply to a program, their top motivations came down to affordability (59%), followed by time to completion (33%) and accreditation (32%).
- Learners recalled digital marketing mediums most, with the highest recall from email marketing (28%), followed by listings on Google (26%), ads on social media sites like Facebook (22%), and ads on college search sites (21%). Non-digital mediums were recalled less often, with TV commercials and direct mail remembered by fewer than 15% of the surveyed online learners.
- Learners graduating from online programs generally want a continued relationship with their alma mater. Nearly half (46%) of online learners say they’re very likely or likely to go back to the same school for another program. Of those learners, 68% would want that program to be entirely online, with 27% preferring a hybrid experience.
- When asked about ‘stackable certificates,’ learners were very or extremely interested in pursuing such credentials to gain new skills for their career (51%) or earning certificates to build towards a degree (47%).
- Fourteen percent of online learners would choose the program with the best reputation regardless of the tuition cost, indicating that price won’t be their deciding factor. However, this sentiment is down from 23% in 2018. One-third (33%) said they would choose the program with the lowest tuition when making their decision, which increased from 28% in 2018.
- An annual scholarship of at least $2,500 could sway up to 71% of learners to choose one school over another.
I conclude from this that the convenience of asynchronous online learning is now recognised, and is being selected by most US students for some part of their studies. Although not preferred by all, it is now a desired component for the majority of learners. Course materials have to be fit-for-purpose of course, but also flexible and convenient. They should also be accompanied by either a reduction from the standard on-campus fee cost, or a scholarship of substantive value.
Producing, managing and annually updating a domain of say 3000+ online course units, is a content engineering and management issue that few universities have faced before. An open-standards based, efficient, single-source publishing solution is an ideal one for universities to use for this specific purpose. Enterprise-level, digital course publishing and updating done properly, in-house, for the long-term.