What is the Impact of Online Learning on Degree Completion?

When any student reaches the stage of higher education, it becomes one of the top priorities to complete the degree program to which a student is enrolled, especially that of an undergraduate level. 

Previously, when traditional systems worked in full throttle of admissions and delivering graduates, students found it more convincing to complete the degree programs. 

But this scenario was seen when the world wasn’t going through any crisis, and people used to live freely. Whenever a country suffers a natural disaster, its education system becomes the first to suffer the consequences. 

According to the world vision statistics, there are about 100 million children and adolescents who face disruptions in their education by the closure of schools due to various natural disasters such as an outbreak of disease, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. 

When crises or disasters occur of any anthropogenic or natural terms, colleges and schools must be irrepressible and implement innovative methods to carry on with teaching-learning events.

These disaster theories are not only a piece of writings but also have been witnessed in the past years. It was in 2016 when Italy encountered three vicious and violent earthquakes. Many areas of the country faced massive destruction. 

Nearly 100,000 inhabitants turned vagrants, structures and buildings distorted, and it was a devastating representation of forfeiture of precious lives and assets. The University of Camerino, known as one of the ancient academia in the world, underwent an enormous loss. 

The traditional system of the University faced an intense crisis. Its institutional structure became utterly disintegrated. A significant percentage of learners lost their homes, and some of them evacuated the area. 

In these circumstances, students faced a deliberate stop to the process of learning and receiving education. It is accurately stated, “It is difficult to stick to the traditional road when the road itself has crumbled.” It clearly explains that confrontational teachings were not feasible at that moment. 

Upon realization, the administration and people in the country’s authority took an advanced step and formulated necessary measures to retain the learning practices in continuation. Before this natural disaster, the University’s e-learning system was in complicated stages. But due to the apparent circumstances, their efforts became unrelenting. 

So, to resume the flow of education, they used a digital tool by Cisco named Webex. This online gizmo assisted lecturers in planning their courses, distributing learning materials, and exhibiting online demonstrations with students. In just about a duration of 1 month, the University became experienced with tactics and approaches used in the online system. 

They efficiently incorporated themselves among the virtual learning system. They understood that, noticeably, the importance of a standard confrontational teaching system could not be condensed. Then, online learning, if merged with the old traditional ways, can convey education with efficacy, efficiency and challenge other opponents through communicating educational methods of enhanced quality.

This chapter will focus on how much students are involved in online degree programs and how they complete their degrees in this e-learning system. What problems do they face when they have to transfer their college credits while shifting to the online system and the procedure by the world’s leading universities who are well-versed in both educational environments? We can say that online education is itself very compelling to the learners, but it isn’t as easy for the system to succeed as much as it seems. It is found in human nature that whenever they see something at their convenience, their efforts reduce, and impassiveness conquers them. It develops a temporary yet a permanent kind of drawback to the online system. 

But according to the innovations, strict rules are resulting from being effective in minimizing these. Let’s have a comprehensive look towards the degree related aspects in a virtual system of learning.

Impact of Online Learning on Degree Completion

Compared with the traditional system, the need for e-learning is accelerating, which is revealed by the figure of virtual admission progress proportions stated by Allan and Seaman (2011). They say that online enrollments are ten times more than the total degree level enrollments. 

They further state that since 2003, almost every year, the number of students attending one or more online courses has increased at a higher frequency than the overall growth rate of students interested in higher education. It states that the representative figure of online students increases at a rate of 20–28% per year. 

During autumn 2015, numbers indicate that over six million learners (29.7%) of total students registered in degree-level education opted for one or additional courses taught online. From this number, the leading majority was the students of the undergraduate level of about 83%. It has reflected that the percentage of students involved in one or more virtual courses have escalated gradually from 10% in 2002 to 25.9% in 2012 and 28.3% in 2014.

According to the US education statistics, in 2017, an aggregate of 19.7 million students signed up in programs at a degree-awarding higher education institute (Snyder, 2019). 

Out of this figure, 6.6 million students received enrollment in some distance education or online educational programs. In 2018, 47% of the students preferred one or more courses taught online. In the online system, public sector educational institutes are more involved than the private sector ones. 

Of 47%, 21% of students opted for online education because they wanted to receive a degree at a low financial cost. In 2019, about 70% of the professors trained about the online system delivered courses developed independently rather than the already designed one. 

They said that 46% of the teaching faculty involved themselves in online teaching compared to 2016 when the statistics were 39%. The students admitted in the online programs were of the view that they feel very convenient in these courses as they don’t have to travel long, are not restricted in maintaining attendance, can easily access the lectures in asynchronous mode.

Jaggars and Xu (2010) stated that the Virginia and Washington community college system analyzed their students getting enrolled in distance education courses at an initial level in building their pedagogical career. They were less likely to keep themselves devoted to the degree programs than those who did not. 

But still, students who showed greater interest in completing their courses had less interest in completing their degrees. In the 2014 research of Shea and Bidjerano, they have noted that older students or students belonging to a more extensive family system, and most females are more attracted to the online degree programs determined in receiving their degrees after successful completion. 

They further said that women are more determined in degree completion. In 2010, Picciano, Seaman, and Allen raised their support towards the online system. It provides a more adaptable learning atmosphere promoting the combined work-study-family environment, which also triggers students to complete their degrees.

Ortagus in 2018 performed nationwide research focusing on 2-year and 4-year students collectively. While observing the influence of opting for one or all e-learning modules for the duration of an undergraduate’s first year on continuing educational results, it involved the probability of receiving a degree, the possibility of dropping out, and the chances of positive transfer.

This investigation realized that student samples of both of the two and 4-year degree programs, who joined in elective courses, showed fewer chances of becoming college dropouts. A significant fraction of students who participated in some classes of a 2-year degree program showed more chances to finalize an associate’s degree. These learners were more efficient in transferring themselves to a different 4-year educational institute than those who picked up only direct interactive courses.

Scenario in 2020

At the initial stages of the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of enrollments declined due to uncertainty and a state of confusion among students. 

Traditionally related students suffered a great deal, and let’s not forget about the international students who suffered not only institutional constraints but also worrisome conditions of living, finances, and lack of clarity in whether staying in the area or not. 50% of the families suffered significant impacts on their financial situations. 

The majority of the students who just got enrolled in their spring semester believed that their present educational institute has aggravated in delivering education. A common opinion among the students states that educational systems are hanging in the air due to the lack of information and communication on the COVID-19 situation around the world.

According to the US educational Statistics, 97% of the students shifted to online learning systems in March 2020 (Di Pietro, 2020). The majority of the students complained that the system was of more mediocre quality than the traditional ones, and they were facing many difficulties. 

At the same time, some of them had the view that it was a better system, and they felt technologically advanced. The University of Washington is said to be the first higher educational institute that moved its learning and examination system to an online one with 50,000 students.

Most of the undergrads are unsatisfied with the order, while 42% of the graduate students found this system to move from good to better after some time. 

In such times, authorities are concerned with the negative impacts, such as foreign student enrollment would considerably decline, recruitments would decrease, and financial cost would increase in training faculty and the formulation of learning materials and conducting exams. 

Due to the many difficulties that students are facing, it would be challenging to complete their degree programs and be a reason for affecting their grades. As there is no traditional option left, so every student has to complete their degree somehow with this new system. But as the number of enrollments has seen to decline in April 2020 compared with 2019, it could more likely impact the rate of degree completion and increase the speed of dropouts and credit transfer.

How are College Credits Transferred to Other Institutions

The credit transfer technique works very supportively for those students who paused their studies due to financial restraints or family, or any other reason. 

Professionals highly recommend enrolling in such a higher education institute, which supports and provides secure credit transfer methods. 

Commonly, 60 credits from a public institute or two-year institution or 60-90 credits from a blend of two and four-year institutes may be used towards the degree. Students have to finish at a minimum of final 30-60 credits on a compulsory basis in their previous institution to receive a degree.

The majority of colleges and universities impose a time limit upon the validity of specific courses. If any student has numerous courses learned more than ten years ago, then it may be consumed as a benefit to reappear in the introductory level of the course, but still transferred credits would be lost. 

If any student possesses credits of an expert level course, let’s assume a technology-related, it would be necessary to study again as technology doesn’t remain the same. 

It will surely be beneficial if the student consults the advisor of his interested departments to be fully satisfied with the credit transfer system. 

Collectively, in most cases, it is beneficial in accumulating course curriculums and assessment results, which would assist greatly later on. 

If any student has taken a course from another country, course materials are matched and checked for similarity. The institution from which the student wishes to transfer credits must be recognized and registered by the country’s Ministry of Education so that the accepting institution may contact and perform the legal matters for a successful transfer.

Education is a constant process, and climbing up the succession ladder is paramount for the students if they want to achieve something of value in their lives.

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