How Institutions Can Successfully Develop or Evolve Online Programs to Meet Student Needs

July 3, 2023

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Title: What Do Higher Education Students Want From Online Learning?

Authors: Felipe Child, Marcus Frank, Jonathan Law, Jimmy Sarakatsannis

Source: McKinsey & Company

While online programs are not new in higher education, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked rapid growth in both remote and hybrid learning options. A recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company explores students’ perspectives on incorporating online experiences into the learning process. The study offers valuable recommendations for institutions seeking to enhance existing programs or expand them to effectively address their students’ needs.

Although a significant portion of students reported overall dissatisfaction with online learning, they found that most students want to continue to incorporate certain aspects of online learning into the educational experience.

A survey of 7,000 students from 17 different countries identified which aspects of online learning students find the most value in, giving institutions insight into how to design online learning programs moving forward.

Aspects that students indicated should remain virtual included recording classes and keeping them available to watch, easier access to learning materials, and flexibility to allow time for both work and study. On the other hand, students who fear enrolling in online programs cite the following reasons: fear of more distractions in an online environment, lack of motivation and resulting boredom, and lack of structure and discipline to complete programming.

As the research suggests a correlation between expansion in online learning and higher levels of student satisfaction, the authors recommend the following steps in designing new programs or scaling existing ones:

  • Listen to students to understand the online learning landscape and set institutional goals. Beginning the process by identifying what students like and dislike about current programs allows institutions to focus, design specific goals, and learn about the demographics of those inclined to enroll in online programs.
  • Strategically align resources to targeted components of online learning. Based on student input, institutions can target specific features of online programming and assess alternatives, complexity, costs and benefits, and distinguishability from other institutions’ offerings.
  • Design an action plan along with structures for implementation and action. With identified features and aligned goals, institutions can design targeted action plans and assemble teams based on six criteria: scale, talent, regulation, customization, speed to market, and investment.

To read the full report, click here.

—Armando Montero

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