Faculty, students share distance learning concerns


As online learning possibilities continue to flourish, a new whitepaper indicates that many faculty members are concerned the approach will lead to less satisfactory learning outcomes for students, according to eCampus News, but institutions can combat this by being proactive and transparent about releasing outcome data.

Educators are also worried that staff support for online learning will not be available, leaving professors to go it alone with unfamiliar technology and tools, and only 30% of surveyed faculty members felt their institution had a fair system for compensating educators for online instruction.

Additionally, The Hechinger Report analyzed a survey of students’ views on online learning, with surprising findings including that many respondents lived near the institution in which they were enrolled in online classes, and nearly 60% wanted to be able to interact personally with professors and other students.

In all surveys, students and educators alike found that they would benefit from in-person or face-to-face meetings, whether it was the presence of support on site for educators, or for students who valued interaction with educators and students by large margins, including virtual “office hours.” The fact that many students do not live far from the institution in which they have enrolled online should inspire school administration to be confident in investing in in-person educator and staff availability for students and faculty in online courses. The close distance could indicate that doing so isn't a misuse of resources.

The survey results can also offer campuses and institutions competing with online institutions insight into how they can attract students who may be gravitating towards online options. The fact that many students enroll in an online course they could commute to could indicate that there may be a different prohibitive factor than distance, whether it is cost or the time a conventional education could take.

Despite hikes in tuition, institutions still offer discounts and breaks for students, but colleges and universities — particularly private, selective schools, could refashion their campuses to be more accessible to students who work and may not be able to complete particular coursework in the time traditionally allotted or would require classes to happen at non-traditional hours. While distance may not be the determining factor keeping these students away from such schools, those institutions may still struggle if they cannot substantively expand the options they offer beyond the traditional full-time four-year degree enrollee.

By Pat Donachie