This Is How Institutions Can Improve Their Online Education

The Online Learning Consortium releases a list of best practices for digital classes to improve institutions programs.

Higher Education these days is no more limited to empty and dusty classrooms. It is no more about teachers giving long lectures to the students. Online learning in higher education is proving itself much advantageous for both the students and for the teachers. It is not only enhancing the flexibility of the universities but is also proving itself to be convenient for many students especially for those who are unable to attend the classes on a regular basis on a campus.

FACTS AND STATS

With over 400 million internet users online education has reached up to a whole new level. If we have a glance at the global stats, according to a recent survey, enrollment in online programs has tremendously increased from 2015-16. Around 6.5 million students from nearly 5000 universities and colleges in the U.S. have taken up to at least one online program (course) each by the end of 2016; which was certainly a massive rise as compared to the previous years.

In fact, India is no less as it is now the third largest online market for education in the world, which has the worth of nearly $3 billion. With such great stats and performance, it is likely to state that India has picked up great pace in the field of online education.

ONLINE v/s OFFLINE LEARNING

Despite such great statistics and advantages; in some aspects, online learning is probably still not able to keep up with the traditional age-old higher education patterns. Few of the online programs are still lacking behind.

  • According to one of the surveys of some students, it was stated that nearly 60% of the students have opted for online classes.
  • However, another survey says that seven in ten students believe that it is not possible to get the true college experience through online education.
  • Also, around 80% have their perception of online education being better than offline.

With such a controversial battle between online and offline learning there comes great pressure on the university’s shoulders to improve their quality of education not only in the aspect of online learning but in for offline learning as well.

HOW CAN UNIVERSITIES IMPROVE THEIR ONLINE OFFERINGS

There arises a great need for the universities to buck up to improve the quality and availability of online education and learning to the students. The entire timeline of a student’s higher education experience should be covered by the digital offerings of the universities. Certainly, Improvements to support for online students are a win-win situation for all the students. The learning experience of every student can be improved with the help of appropriate tools and aspects especially the ones necessary for student’s success.

A. For the assistance of the universities to build a strong and reliable online learning curriculum, universities should  adopt the points necessary for the growth of any successful online higher education program. For example, A Student Support Checklist has been created by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and the State University      System of Florida, which has given few necessary steps/points for how they can assist the students in their career success. With those points, it is assured that if the cooperation from the diverse service areas across all the institutions in achieving the new checklist will overcome the major issues being faced by the students and will help the universities to unite with the online-learner community, promising them to provide the same quality education, support, and opportunities as for the campus students. Some of the pivotal points mentioned in the checklist are given below:

  • Admissions: The appropriate campus and class information should be provided to the students via online portals comprising a virtual campus tour and an online platform for the complete interaction amongst the learner-community and the assigned faculties; making it convenient and accessible for everyone.
  • Financial Aid: The online students can be provided the opportunity to not only contact with financial aid advisers but also will be provided online tools ( like mobile services) to notify students of their options, piece of training and other useful stuff.
  • Advising: The online architecture should be in place in order to support video chat between advisers and students.
  • Library: One of the major point important for both on-campus and online students are the library resources. The universities, students should be given complete access to personnel, tutorial skills, and databases through online portals, and mobile applications.
  • Technology Support: The very necessary aspect for online learner-community is smooth technical support, especially for the students who have heavy confidence on their devices. Therefore, it is obligatory for the universities to have the help desk support and access to information on programs which the courses generally require for the successful operations and running of the online program.

B. Universities need to fulfill the demands of the students by supplying them with as many resources and opportunities available as are provided to the campus students. For example, students find the university apps and websites helpful, but they want more personalization… such aspects should be considered by the universities for the improvement of the accessibility of their online programs.

Universities should also keep in mind about assisting the students in enrolling for their first courses. For example, Institutions should make sure that the students have easy access to online enrollment tools, placement testing, degree auditing and ways to contact service centers for learning disabilities. However, these services should be available 24×7, as it will encourage the students to have thorough interaction about their academic and post-graduation goals. AI chat bots may also be used by the smaller institutions that are not able to appoint staff for the possible interactive sessions.

C. The seven key findings can also be adopted by the universities for having a positive impact on access, retention and/or academic success. In an interview with 151 participants involved in online learning at the Open University,UK; the seven key findings emerged along with major assistance from the academic, professional and management staff at 15 Australian universities. These 7 key findings came out by interviewing 151 participants and by asking them about the interventions/strategies for online students that they were using, which they thought might help their online students stay and succeed. These 7 key findings included.

  • A strategic whole-of-institution approach is needed.
  • Early intervention with students to connect, prepare and engage is crucial.
  • Teacher-presence portrays a vital role in building a sense of belonging to the learning community and in improving student retention.
  • Content, curriculum, and delivery need to be designed particularly for online learning.
  • Regular and structured contact between the institution and the student is important in administering connection and direction along the student journey.
  • Learning analytics play an important role in informing pertinent and effective student interventions.
  • Collaboration across the institution is required to integrate and embed support and assistance; delivering it to students at the point of need.

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