When exploring college options, an increasing number of students are opting for online educational options. As college tuition continues to rise and colleges continue to add more and more majors for students to choose from, deciding which college to attend is becoming harder and harder. But is college education presented online a good option and does it provide the same quality educational environment as its brick and mortar counterpart? It turns out, the presentation of course material and messaging options may make all the difference.
In one study, students were found to be far more likely to participate regularly with the professor as well as other students in an online environment when the interface made doing so more efficient (Shin and Chan, 2004). This includes showing on the main page of the students’ login page whether new messages exist. Student with this type of interface were found to generate far more messages to their teacher and peers than did students who participated in colleges with a less message-friendly interface (2004). Also important to the educational environment is the presentation of the course material. As is to be expected, students performed better when audio messages were present from their professor and increased their level of participation (2004). This is important because students were more likely to be successful in an online college environment the more they participated in the online learning environment (2004). In addition, students who participate more in their college environment, be it online or in person, are more likely to associate closely with the college attended and to feel pride in the college itself (2004). When students participate whole-heartedly in a college environment that is designed to increase communication and student participation, a distance learning environment should produce the same quality education as a brick and mortar college. The choice between attending college on campus or online will likely always come down to lifestyle, not necessarily the educational options or majors available. For many students, obtaining a degree online may be the only feasible possibility.
Overall, it is likely the case that student preparedness and dedication is the largest deciding factor as far as educational success is concerned. A student who is not prepared to put in the appropriate amount of time and effort required to succeed will likely not be any more successful in a traditional college environment as they would be in an online learning environment. However, it is also important that colleges recognize what course format works best for students and design the distance learning environment to provide the best possible chance of success for all students.
Shin, N. and Chan, J. (2004). Direct and indirect effects of online learning on distance education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35, 275-288