EDTECH 522: Module 1 Blog Reflection

After reviewing the Online Report Card: Tracing Online Education in the United States (2016), I was shocked, but in a way not surprised by some of the results. One area that really stuck out to me was the attitude and practice section that questions whether online learning is considered strategic in different type of education institutions (pg. 21, 2016). In the survey that asks “online education is critical to the long term strategy of my institution” there was a sharp decrease in 2013 and 2015 to institutions that disagreed with this statement. Looking closely at the data, most of the negative responses was from smaller institutions. In 2014 70.2% of these smaller institutions said online learning was an important part of their long term strategy plan but then in 2015 the number dropped to 46%. Looking even further into the data, the smaller institutions that already have some form of online learning implemented had only a slight change in opinion while those small institutions with no online learning component changed drastically. So why the change? One may say the lack of funding and resources could play a major role, but I feel the prejudices towards online learning may also play a role. Change is also difficult for many to accept.

This led into another interesting area I found in the Online Report Card. Comparing faculty acceptance of online education by institutions enrollments, those with the highest numbers of acceptance was the institutions with the higher enrollments. The lowest acceptance scores were from institutions with the lowest enrollments. What’s even more interesting is when asked if faculty attitudes towards online education are a significant obstacle to further the growth of online education, institutions with the highest enrollment numbers had the lowest scores while institutions with low enrollment had higher scores. Based on this data you could say institutions with smaller enrollments numbers are more likely to have faculty that are not accepting of online education and their attitudes play an obstacle in further developing the institutions online learning program. It would be interesting to find out more information about this and what can be done to help change these numbers and opinions smaller institutions have about online education.

When it comes to learner’s persistence there are many factors that can create a challenge for adult learners to succeed in online learning environments. After working almost 15 years in health care I made the decision to switch careers and this involved going back to school in 2014. Because I needed to continue to work, my only choice was an online program. I was skeptical that this would work or be beneficial to learning a new industry as my only experience with online courses was from the early 2000’s when Blackboard was new and barely used by my instructors. So from the beginning I was worried that a fully online program was going to be subpar compared to on campus courses. I also worried that the coursework itself was going to be simplistic, boring, and just an easy way to get A+ grades. I also worried that the way the courses would deliver and present learning content would be nothing but readings and multiple choice tests (just like they were in the early 2000’s).

However I couldn’t have been more wrong about any of this, but I know I am not the only person who feels this way about online education. Telling friends and family that I am getting my master’s degree online gets mixed emotions. Which is a bit odd considering I currently work in an online environment. I think people’s negative perception on the quality and potential of online education is still an issue that plays a factor in online retention rates.

Another challenge that I had before I first started online education is worrying about online support and what happens if/when issues arise? The idea of a community seemed like it may not exist and instead we the students are left staring at a computer screen, working solo on everything, and hope our instructor will respond to any emails I may send. Obviously my concerns have changed greatly, but I think a lot of adults worry that they are on their own with little to no support along the way. Creating a community and engaging in positive communication with students will help to motivate them to continue onward with their studies.

And finally, probably the biggest issue I have seen with adults learners is time management. Many adult learners have other things going on in life such as full time jobs, families, and other commitments. People sometimes do not adjust well to change and adding a major component to your already busy schedule is not always the easiest thing to do. I will admit it was difficult for me to adjust at first, but once I got the hang of things it worked out for me. Part of my problem was my perception of how online education works (as I mentioned earlier) played a part in why it was a challenge adjusting at first. If you are unable to adjust accordingly and it negatively affects other areas of your life there is a good chance the student will not continue. This is why it is important to always address how much study time is required in a course, and always be available to provide assistance and feedback for students.

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