Industry News

The Latest Digital Learning Pulse Survey Shows College Students Want Online Courses

By eLearning Inside
May 18, 2022

BOSTON, May 18, 2022 – As higher education transitions to a new normal following the pandemic, one aspect community college students don’t want to give up is access to online courses. Whether currently enrolled in in-person, hybrid, or online courses, the majority of students say they want to take more courses fully online in the future. The Spring 2022 installment of the Digital Learning Pulse Survey, conducted by Bay View Analytics on behalf of education technology company Cengage and industry partners found that three-quarters of community college students (76%) want to take some courses fully online in the future, up from 68% in the Fall of 2021.

The Digital Learning Pulse Survey is an ongoing research project to understand how the pandemic is changing higher education. The spring survey had more than 1,600 respondents across community colleges – 1,246 students and 441 faculty and administrators and was conducted by Bay View Analytics on behalf of primary partner and underwriter Cengage, as well as the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Achieving the Dream (ATD), Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the Higher Education Research & Development Institute (HERDI) and College Pulse.

“Students have made their learning preferences clear, and now institutions have to meet the increasing demand for quality online courses and provide the flexibility students want along with the support services we know they need to be successful,” said Kevin Carlsten, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Higher Education Institutional Group at Cengage, who shared further insight into the research and what it means for administrators in a recent article here. “Students are getting increasingly comfortable with online learning and are enjoying its benefits. We will continue to build on that and do it in an affordable, supportive way.”

Key takeaways from the survey include:

Students are more positive about their learning experiences in Spring 2022 vs. Spring 2021. More two-year students (53%) gave their Spring 2022 learning experience an “A” compared to only 40% in Spring 2021. Of those students taking online courses, 62% gave online learning an “A” in Spring 2022, compared to only 40% of students in Spring 2021.

Regardless of the current course format, students want to take more courses fully online in the future. Eighty-eight percent of students are currently in online courses; 60% of students are currently in, in-person courses and 76% of students in hybrid courses want to take at least some courses fully online in the future.

Stress is the single most-pressing issue for students. Half (49%) of community college students felt stress was a big problem for them, followed by financial issues (31%), level of motivation (29%), and family and health issues (25%).

Institutions need to do more to grow awareness of and use available student support services. Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) of community college students were unaware of their institution offered support services for them. While more than half of students (57%) were aware of their institution’s services, only 15% had actually used such services. Of those who did use the services, however, 85% found them effective.

“One thing the pandemic has shown us is that we need to be flexible, and providing that flexibility and support for students will be key to the future of community colleges,” said Dr. Jeff Seaman, lead researcher and Director of Bay View Analytics. “The experience with online and blended/hybrid learning experiences has led students to want more. And while students give their institution good grades, many are still coping with stress – something that can become a major barrier if not addressed.”

“These findings represent an important litmus test for community colleges and their leaders,” said ACCT President and CEO Jee Hang Lee. “First and foremost, we are heartened to learn that most students are very satisfied with their learning experiences. Offering courses online creates new opportunities for busy students to stay engaged in college. We at ACCT are committed to continuing to work with colleges to find support services that will help more students persist in and complete their higher education journeys.

“These findings are important because they center the student’s voice and offer valuable insights for our colleges to consider as they work to redesign course and services delivery to address student success and enrollment losses,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president, and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “It is fascinating that more than half of the students are aware of the plethora of services on our campuses, yet only 15% use the services. How do we close that gap? Our students clearly need these supports.”

“Community colleges have always worked to meet students where they are and this research tells us exactly where today’s students are and what they need from us,” said Phi Theta Kappa President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. “In addition to providing college leaders with insight into how students prefer to learn, this research highlighted that our students are struggling with feelings of personal well-being. As a community of community college leaders, it is our job to listen and to be responsive to their needs—academically, personally, and socially.”

“HERDI is pleased to be part of this research project. Discovering how community college students, faculty and administrators is crucial since this segment serves almost half of all higher education enrollments,” said Toni Cleveland, CEO of Higher Ed Research and Development Institute (HERDI).

Survey findings were presented in a free webinar, “Student, Faculty, and Administrator Perspectives on Evolving Digital Learning in the Community College” and featured a discussion with lead researcher Dr. Jeff Seaman of Bay View Analytics, as well as leaders from Achieving the Dream, Ivy Tech Community College and a student from Beaver County Community College. Click here to access the recording.

Methodology: The Digital Learning Pulse Survey: Student, Faculty, and Administrator Perspectives on Digital Learning was developed by Bay View Analytics in partnership with leading online learning organizations and underwritten by Cengage. It is based on Community College responses from 1,279 students and 820 faculty and administrators collected between October 20 and November 8, 2021, and responses from 1,246 students, 441 faculty and administrators collected between March 10 to April 8, 2022.

Bay View Analytics is a statistical research firm with a focus on survey design, implementation, and analysis. Formerly known as the Babson Survey Research Group, the scope of Bay View Analytics’ consulting engagements includes scientific statistical analyses, clinical trial statistics, and survey designs for a range of topics, with a particular focus on online education. Bay View Analytics has been conducting research and publishing annual reports on the state of online education in U.S. higher education for thirteen years.

Cengage, the U.S. Higher Education business of global education technology company Cengage Group, serves millions of instructors, learners, and institutions. We deliver affordable, high-quality digital products and personalized support to power learning individually and at scale. Our customer-centered approach enables innovation, including Cengage Unlimited, the first and only all-access digital subscription for textbooks and course materials. Our textbooks, homework tools, and flagship online learning platforms, MindTap and WebAssign, help educators and students achieve their goals.

Featured image: Prostock-Studio, iStock.