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CHLOE Report Advice for Online Learning: Focus on Completing Course Reqs

closeup of hands using laptop

This year's report on The Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) comes as nearly every college and university in the land is taking its courses online in response to COVID-19. In an 11th-hour addition to the report, CHLOE researchers suggested that the immediate goal for any institution right now should be to have faculty communicate with students on completing the tasks and assignments they need to satisfy course requirements.

CHLOE is an annual survey among chief online officers (COOs) who answer questions regarding how online instruction is managed, delivered and supported at their schools. The 2020 survey, compiled in "CHLOE 4: Navigating the Mainstream," pulled responses from representatives at 367 U.S. colleges and universities, a 31 percent rise from last year. The project is jointly produced by quality assurance organization Quality Matters and Eduventures Research, the higher education research division of ACT/NRCCUA.

"As we publish this report, online learning faces an unprecedented challenge," the researchers noted. "Hundreds of colleges and universities are suspending face-to-face classes and relying on online capabilities that have spread throughout higher education in recent years to provide continuity of instruction and slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Online managers and staff are tasked to work with faculty to meet this urgent need in a matter of days, not weeks. This response to the crisis is clear evidence that online learning has entered the higher education mainstream, but expectations of what the online infrastructure can achieve in the short run need to be tempered. Mounting successful online courses requires time, effort, and expertise that are likely in short supply under emergency conditions. The immediate goal should be to facilitate communication between faculty and students on the remaining tasks and assignments necessary to complete course requirements, and to help sustain campus communities in these difficult times."

Among the findings of this year's report were these:

  • Orientation to help students prepare for online study is uncommon. Seven in 10 respondents said such orientations were either "optional or absent." However, by sector, "flagship" four-year public universities were far more likely to ignore the need for student training (80 percent) than regional privates (49 percent). In a follow-up question, the researchers attempted to understand the impact of requiring orientation on student performance, but the results were "mixed." While regional privates and four-year "low-enrollment" schools showed the highest percentages of online students out-performing "on-ground" students, enterprise programs and regional publics, which "seldom require online orientation," reported the strongest online student success overall. "Clearly, there are other factors than orientation at play in influencing overall online student success (e.g., the level of faculty preparation, quality course and program design, online advising, mentoring and tutoring, and student selectivity)," the report stated.
  • Faculty tended to be better prepared to shift to online instruction than students. About 60 percent of schools required some kind of online training, predominantly going over use of the learning management system and other technologies, but also incorporating coverage of resources and pedagogy, institutional online policies and quality assurance.
  • Almost four-fifths of institutions (78 percent) reported that they did have another ingredient important for faculty preparation: the existence of "teaching, learning and technology" (TLT) centers. In fact, the report noted, flagships, which were least likely to mandate faculty training, were the most likely to have a high proportion of TLTs overall and the "greatest incidence of multiple TLT centers" in a single institution.
  • Support for online students and faculty are largely handled by units that also serve the on-campus population. The largest share of responses reported a tendency to centralize most functions (about 47 percent said those were "highly" or mostly centralized); another third said they had a balance of centralized and distributed support (around 32 percent); and about 20 percent said most or all functions were distributed. The report stated that some services such as student recruitment, orientation and advising were more likely to be administered separately specifically for online students versus those "on-ground."
Online student orientation practices by institutional type

Online student orientation practices by institutional type. Source: "The Changing Landscape of Online Education, 2020" from Quality Matters and Eduventures Research

The full report is available with registration starting on March 24, 2020 on the Quality Matters website. A webinar with project co-lead Richard Garrett, Eduventures' chief research officer, will take place on April 23, 2020.

Part 2 of Campus Technology's coverage of the CHLOE 4 report will focus on cost components and the use of online program managers.

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 [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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