Distance education is "planned learning that normally occurs in different places from teaching and as a result requires special techniques of course design, special instructional techniques, special methods of communication by electronic and other technology as well as special organizational and administrative arrangements" . Some students choose to move away from home to attend college, and some decide to commute. This tends to be a big decision for most people wanting to further their education, including adults returning to college later in their lives. There are pros and cons to each side, but the main point is whether people prefer face-to-face education or on-line education.
The object of this study is to examine the appeal of on-line education to college students in the United States versus face-to-face education, with a specific focus on the number of adults returning to college seeking online education. The research examines the number of college students and returning adult students that are choosing to further their education on-line versus commuting to the college for face-to-face instruction.
The internet has become a critical part of nearly every academic discipline, even some that were against the technology in the beginning. College and Universities have seen the demand for the online courses and have increased their courses offered online. The rate of students enrolling in online courses has exceeded the growth rate of the overall higher education student population by 16.8 percent . Over the time that online courses have been available the increase in interest has been growing in leaps and bounds, but some say that a plateau may have been reached. Research has proven that this is not true. The growth rate of online course enrollment is still increasing, and is in the double-digits .
Eduventures, a consulting and research firm, recently conducted a survey and found approximately 80 percent of online students are commonly older and are more likely to be working and have families . San Diego State University recently increased the availability of high demand courses by offering it online in order to increase summer enrollment, and attract students that hold summer jobs, live out of town and cannot travel to campus, and to help the overcrowding problems . This was beneficial to both the school and the students looking for a way to continue their education.
Many colleges have implemented Web-based course management programs to assist in delivering a college course in the most efficient way. Blackboard is one of the leading course management systems that offer open architecture for customization and can be used for many different types of courses, online, Web-enhanced and hybrid . This program enables the students and instructors have an enhanced learning experience. WebCT (another online education instrument) is the world's leading provider of integrated online education systems for higher education . In February 2006 WebCT was acquired by Blackboard. These management programs help instructors bring the classroom and the web together by evaluating, tracking, and grading student activities. These programs were developed at the former Cornell University and The University of British Columbia in the late nineteen nineties . Web These programs are used mainly for on-line courses but can be used for face-to-face instruction also, as an aid to the teacher, to get information out to the students quickly and helping students track their progress in the class. Another plus for the students using Blackboard is that it is running 24/7, meaning students can do their work at any time, day or night, and even on the weekend. This gives the students with extremely busy schedules to use their time more efficiently.
It has been said that adults returning to college will be more likely to take online courses than the traditional college student between the ages of 18-21. Some of the reasons behind this seem to lie in the fact that the younger college students benefit from the social atmosphere that is provided by the college campus. That defiantly lends itself to the reason at a majority of the online students enrolled in college today are over the age of 24 . Another underling reasons that younger college students tend to enjoy or lean toward face-to-face courses and college campus life is rather simple, the freedom from their parents, parties, and a social life . Young students preferring to take classes on campus, is in the traditional classroom the teacher is in front of them supervising, making sure they are paying attention and completing their assignments. On the other hand commuting students and adults returning to college are not in need of this exciting social environment and are more inclined to be mature because they more than likely already have existing obligations like work and family. They are there to get a higher education and expand their knowledge. In a study from the National Survey of Student Engagement only 11 percent of traditional college students spend 25 or more hours a week studying; 40 percent spend 10 hours or less a week .
The target audience for online college courses may not be the adult students , but based on the findings in this study younger students have a greater tendency to take online courses that older students . This may not be entirely true, young students may take these courses because they are comfortable with the technology but they most likely will not do as well in a class with face-to-face interaction. This study also states that in previous years it was true that older students preferred to take online courses, but with all the technology in recent years the tendency for the younger students taking online courses has increased . The increase in on-line courses offered by colleges may be a combination of the younger and older students, but without these on-line classes being offered there would be a lot of adult students and commuting students that would not be able to attend the college of their choice.
Therefore we propose:
H1: Commuting students are more likely to take online courses.
H2: Adults returning to college are more likely to take online courses.
There are many tools that assist in the on-line education environment. With the unemployment rate soaring currently and more and more people needing to re-evaluate their future we believe that more adults are returning to college to expand their knowledge. The increase in enrollment in online college courses can be largely attributed to the adult and commuter students. Also, adults and commuter students have are on the top of the list when it comes to having other priorities than school. They could be holding a full time job and are unable to make it to the college on time to take a night course; they could have a young child at home with no one to watch he/she; they could be on a tight budget that does not allow the money for the commute; or they could jut prefer the on-line community vs. the face-to-face community at the college. Regardless, any of these could be the reason for adult and/or commuter student to choose on-line classes.
This study will be based on a survey of individuals who are enrolled in community colleges, state colleges and people who are currently entertaining the idea of furthering their education.
The written survey will be given.
Ages will ranged from students entering college directly from high school (18 years of age) to adults returning to school (approx. 49 years of age)
Discussion & Conclusion
Through the research the determination of young college students liking the campus atmosphere was valid. They enjoy the interaction with the teachers, faculty and other students. The commuting students love the option to be able to take some online courses and some face-to-face courses. This gives them an opportunity to work around their busy work and commuting schedules. Whereas the adult people returning to school really take advantage to the online courses, some have full time jobs and families to take care of, some are unemployed and don't want to get back into the college scene, and some just enjoy online instruction.
The information gathered through this study will help convince more colleges to consider expanding their on-line course selection for the students. This will aid in increased enrollment at the institution and in turn make the college more appealing to other students thinking about attending.
Using a test survey first to determine if the questions are valid for the research will assist in a more viable test. Having the survey taken by students at only 2 colleges limits the possibilities of a favorable outcome.
Expand the research to the numbers of students in the schools that take on-line courses. Investigation into the reasons that students take online courses will. Through a survey conducted on a control group based on the above information will provide a better insight into on-line education.