Research

Two-Thirds of Online Students Do Some Coursework on a Mobile Device

female college student studying with smart phone and laptop

In a survey of 1,500 "past, present and prospective fully online students," most are taking advantage of — or want — the option to use smartphones or tablets for their class work. Among current and past students, 67 percent completed at least some of their online coursework on a mobile device. The most common activities handled that way: accessing course readings (referenced by 51 percent of respondents), communicating with professors (51 percent) and fellow students (44 percent), accessing the learning management system (45 percent), doing research for reports (41 percent) and finishing assignments (40 percent). Less than a third (31 percent) of online students said they were accessing lectures via mobile.

The research was conducted by Learning House, a company that manages online programs for colleges and universities, and Aslanian Market Research, a research arm of EducationDynamics, which performs student prospecting and enrollment management.

As for class activities, a majority of students rated videos and slide presentations from the professor as "very helpful" (referenced by 58 percent), followed by course materials (52 percent) and written assignments (51 percent). Less than half of survey participants identified interactive media (such as game or flashcards) or discussion boards as very helpful (46 percent and 43 percent, respectively). Synchronous sessions through web conferencing programs such as Adobe Connect or Zoom were more likely to be designated as "somewhat helpful" rather than "very helpful" (45 percent vs. 37 percent); another 14 percent of students found them not helpful at all.

When students were asked about the features they deemed most important in the online programs they chose or were considering, a double-digit share of their responses went to innovations that can expedite their education:

  • 27 percent referenced year-round courses;
  • 25 percent specified self-paced classes, and the same number chose the ability to complete studies in less time than a classroom program; and
  • 20 percent selected the availability of fast-track accelerated courses.

While competency-based learning had high recognition levels among respondents, few students (17 percent) had enrolled in or completed a CBE program. However, once CBE was described to them, nearly half (49 percent) reported that they would "definitely consider" such a program in the future. Overall, when it comes to CBE, the researchers noted, there's "still confusion" among students about what CBE is, why they should care and whether they should seek a CBE program out.

Another kind of innovation, stackable credentials, continues to gain interest among students. Whereas 18 percent of people in 2013 said they had no interest, that was down to 5 percent by 2018. The share of those who were "very interested" has grown from 32 percent to 43 percent over the same period. The majority (52 percent) was "somewhat interested."

And while just 14 percent of respondents said they were enrolled in or had finished a "textbook-free" course or program, six in 10 (61 percent) said they'd "definitely consider" it for the future over one that wasn't. According to the report, textbook-free courses are one way schools can address cost variables of concern to online students, making for a "strong selling point for prospective students to save money."

The report is available with registration through the Learning House website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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