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73 Percent of Students Prefer Some Courses Be Fully Online Post-Pandemic

In a recent survey, nearly three-quarters of students — 73 percent — said they would prefer to take some of their courses fully online post-pandemic. However, only half of faculty (53 percent) felt the same about teaching online. The fourth and final installment of Cengage's Digital Learning Pulse Survey, conducted by Bay View Analytics on behalf of the Online Learning Consortium, WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and Canadian Digital Learning Research Association, polled 1,469 students and 1,286 faculty and administrators across 856 United States institutions about how higher education is changing in the wake of COVID-19.

Sixty-eight percent of students were also in favor of some combination of in-person and online courses. On the faculty side, 57 percent said they would prefer teaching hybrid courses post-pandemic — slightly more than those who preferred teaching fully online.

The survey also gauged respondents' preferences around using more technology, digital materials and digital resources for post-pandemic teaching and learning. Here, both students and faculty agreed: Roughly two-thirds across the board said they would like to use more tech and digital course materials in the future.

Another area with widespread agreement was the challenges faced by students. Students, faculty and administrators all cited feelings of stress, level of motivation and having time to do coursework as the more pressing problems for students right now. However, students perceived lack of support from their institution as a bigger problem than faculty and administrators, who felt other areas (such as internet connectivity) were a greater concern.

Overall, though, students were more likely than faculty or administrators to rate their pandemic learning experience positively. When asked how well their Spring 2021 courses met their educational needs, 47 percent of students gave the semester an "A" grade, compared to 43 percent of faculty and 25 percent of administrators. And 40 percent of students gave faculty's engagement with students an "A," compared to 33 percent of faculty and 21 percent of administrators.

More than half of students said they felt more optimistic about online learning and the use of digital materials than they did prior to the pandemic. And nearly half (48 percent) felt more optimistic about courses that combine in-person and online instruction.

"Some have worried that the remote learning experiences offered during the pandemic would negatively reflect on courses that are online by design," commented Robert Hansen, chief executive officer of UPCEA, in a statement. "These results seem to contradict our assumptions based on anecdotal information. When three-fourths of students and more than half of faculty want to experience at least some courses fully online, the key takeaway is that the pandemic did not threaten but in fact accelerated the long-term growth, acceptance, and desirability of online learning, and those numbers will only improve, as emergency remote offerings are rebuilt as modern online courses and programs."

The full report, including an on-demand webinar discussing the findings, is available on the Cengage site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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