• Pauline Hoffmann

Online Learning/Distance Education

Why I love Online Learning and why you weren't doing it during the pandemic.

This week I discuss online learning and distance education on the podcast. Warning, this episode is data heavy. HEAVY!

Let me first start with links to a couple of the articles I reference at the beginning of the podcast:

The National Center for Education Statistics has some wonderful resources related to distance education. I reference some data from this site, particularly related to why people choose online programs and classes. It also has a wonderful table - a digest of education statistics - noting the demographic information related to distance education and who is participating. You may find the table here.

What I find interesting, but not surprising is that more women than men are in online programs; they are older than your traditional student, they have dependents, work, and want business, computer science and health programs. I say it's interesting but not surprising because I've been teaching in online programs for about a decade. The programs in which I teach are graduate level programs. Often in face-to-face programs you see students right out of undergraduate so they are about 21 years old or so. Our online programs certainly have these students but I also see many people who are older - "non-traditional." I also see many with family and work responsibilities that would make it difficult or impossible to attend school traditionally. They are looking for programs like this to advance their careers, for the most part. They want the least expensive and the quickest while still getting a quality degree. And....what surprises so many people when I tell them this....they want to stay close to home even though they aren't going on a campus. Data shows us that most students attend an online program within 500 miles of where they live. There is something to be said for school reputation and name recognition.

At the top of this post I noted that I love online learning and that what we saw during the pandemic was anything but. If you listen to the podcast I detail what's involved in developing an online course that is efficient and effective for students. Forcing teachers and professors to put class material online without appropriate professional development and without having the resources isn't ideal but it had to be done. Please, as prospective students, don't think of this as online learning. Don't think this is what you will get in an online degree program. It certainly is not!

Having said that, we can't have a conversation about distance education without talking about the impact Covid has had on education and learning worldwide. The site, education data, lists the data I reference on the podcast as well as additional information. When I started writing the podcast script, I included so much data and information. When I was actually recording the podcast, I realized that was way too much for an audio program. I invite you to take a look at the site and cull through the data. I spent quite a bit of time on the site!

The link will take you to the home page which has so much information unrelated to Covid and distance education. You can get lost in it. I did. If you want the link to the specific information I reference, please click here.

Covid exposed barriers and a socio-economic gap that many had not seen or had not realized was so large. While the focus is on the students, teachers and professors also faced barriers. Not all educators have access to reliable broadband. I had a colleague who lives so remotely she had to drive into town to sit outside a coffee shop to use its wifi when we were forced into isolation. That is not ideal. That is not what online teaching and learning should be. I don't do that and no one should have to.

In addition, we were very focused on what was happening within our own neighborhoods. Think about how the pandemic affected education and access to education and resources worldwide. The data showcase that as well. It is stark!

This week's Arbitrary Random Stat (ARS) comes to us from the Journal of Fertility and Sterility in 2011 and may be found here.

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