ARLINGTON, Va., June 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Most full-time undergraduates see online education as less effective than in-person education, and more than 90 percent think they should pay less for it, according to a new survey released by the Charles Koch Foundation and College Pulse. The survey, which included responses from 5,000 full-time undergraduates at more than 200 U.S. universities, also found that most students thought their institution responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the majority think online programs could be improved through the use of better technology.
"At a time of unprecedented uncertainty in higher education, it's more important than ever for institutional leaders to listen to -- and prioritize -- the voices of their students," said Ryan Stowers, executive director of the Charles Koch Foundation. "Online learning has tremendous promise as a tool to help institutions scale high-quality education. This survey makes clear that while many students still prefer in-person learning, the pandemic is creating a renewed sense of urgency among both students and instructors to implement technologies that can facilitate more effective remote learning."
The survey found that a majority of students have taken online courses before, including 66 percent of students at public institutions and 36 percent of students at private colleges. And those who had previously taken online courses were significantly more likely to say they were effective than were those with no previous experience with online learning. In addition, more than six in 10 students indicated that better technology platforms could improve the quality of online programs.
These findings shed light on challenges with online learning programs at a time when colleges and universities are still considering the safest ways to continue operating in the wake of the pandemic. Despite many institutions' promises to reopen in the fall, nearly three-quarters of students do not think they will be back on campus next term. And if their college experience is online, the vast majority of students think schools should reduce tuition rates: more than nine in ten students said students should pay much less (63%) or a little less (30%) if only online learning options are available in the fall.
"It's clear that while students are empathetic to the challenges their schools have faced during the pandemic, they also want colleges to prioritize their post-graduation prospects at least as much as their academic experience," said Terren Klein, CEO of College Pulse. "Crises like this one create both challenges and new opportunities for institutional leaders -- and results like these may point the way for colleges to reimagine their approach to serving students in the months to come."
Other survey findings include:
When asked how well their college or university responded to the coronavirus outbreak, nearly seven in 10 students said their school did an excellent (23%) or a good (46%) job. Around half of students (46%) said most of their professors were able to effectively transition from in-person classes to online instruction.
Helping students find jobs and lowering the price of expensive textbooks were students' top priorities for their institution in the wake of the pandemic. Most students said that incorporating more online tools and courses should be a high priority, though just 21% of respondents marked it as the highest priority.
Nearly six in ten students (59%) said getting the credentials they needed for their future career was one of the most important reasons they decided to attend college.
The survey was drawn from College Pulse's American College Student Panel, which includes more than 385,000 undergraduate students representing more than 1,000 two- and four- year colleges and universities in all 50 states. The panel includes students attending large public universities, small private colleges, online universities, historically black colleges, and religiously affiliated schools.
Download the full report, COVID-19 On Campus: The Future of Learning, here.