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The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, a survey of over 300 university officials found that the majority plan for long-term growth in online education, but few regularly evaluate the quality of their programs. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!
A survey of more than 300 college officials found that the majority of US universities intend to fully integrate online education by 2025. It seems, however, that few regularly evaluate the quality of their courses.
Online learning is becoming an increasingly important part of higher education, and institutions are continuing to integrate it into their programs as its importance grows.
Almost two years of widespread online accommodations to meet the demand of the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the higher education landscape. A majority of chief online officers (COOs) surveyed believe that online learning will continue to grow over the next couple of years, but at a slower pace than in recent years.
In the report by Quality Matters and Encoura's Eduventures, a higher education market research firm, more than 90 percent COOs expect traditional-age undergraduates on their campuses to take hybrid courses by 2025. In comparison, just before the pandemic, only 20 percent of these undergraduates were taking hybrid classes.
To guide this rapid transition towards online education, 96 percent of college officials said they had adopted "quality assurance" standards. These standards provide faculty members with tools to make online learning intuitive, accessible, and engaging for their students. For instance, instructors may be expected to provide timely, regular feedback on assignments, align activities with a course's learning objectives, and post transcripts of all video lectures.
Despite many institutions adopting quality assurance standards for online courses and programs, evaluating compliance with those standards remains a challenge. Furthermore, despite the large number of studies that investigate what constitutes quality teaching and learning, the concept of "quality" is not universally defined. The authors of the report acknowledge that colleges' quality standards vary considerably in terms of scope and enforcement.
Only 34 percent of respondents indicated that their standards included analyzing student-learning outcomes, such as postgraduate job placements and salaries.
The report's co-director, Richard Garrett, chief research officer at Edeventures, is not surprised, since universities are just starting to collect this kind of data, “never mind having standards around it.” Nevertheless, it will be helpful for colleges and faculty to show results when promoting their courses in a saturated, competitive market.
“If a school is ultimately saying you should enroll in this program because it leads to an outcome, but they don’t really have a handle on that [outcome] … That’s a weakness,” Richard shared.
There were also noticeable differences in opinions among college officials about the need to evaluate online courses. In spite of the large majority having quality standards, only 42 percent reported that they regularly use them when evaluating new or highly revised online courses.
According to the report, colleges risk obscuring academic standards in their online courses and programs without evaluations, and missing out on the chance to use their resources on data-driven remediation and support. “Without evaluating whether adopted quality standards are met,” the report states, “there is no true quality-assurance plan in place.”
Here are some of the report's other noteworthy findings: