Roughly five years ago, to permit Temple to offer fully online undergraduate degrees, online GenEd classes were created for each of the GenEd areas. Fast forward to today and nearly 10% of the credit hours taught in GenEd are online. What I found surprising when I looked at the data was that less then 5% of the students enrolled on online GenEd classes were pursuing online degrees. The vast majority are students here at Temple’s main campus who could just as easily enroll in standard brick-and-mortar sections of the same class.
Why are so many Temple students opting for online sections? How does their online experience compare with their experience in traditional GenEd classes? To address these questions, Molly Sapia, a graduate student in the College of Education and GenEd Research Assistant, designed a survey targeting only Temple students completed both online and traditional GenEd courses. The response rate was 11.5% for a sample size of 217 students.
What students liked best about online GenEds:
- Flexibility, convenience
- Working on their own time
- Working at their own pace
What they liked least:
- Lack of direct interaction
- Harder to get help or ask questions
- Easy to fall behind
- Lot of work and frequent due dates
Do they learn the same amount? Over 60% said yes, with the remainder split roughly evenly between which format works better.
Given the complicated work-school-home schedules of so many of Temple’s students, online GenEd classes will likely continue to grow in popularity, but because ideally students take most of their GenEd classes as freshmen and sophomores, lack of college experience can be a problem. Quoting from Molly’s report: “While some students thrive in online courses, it has become clear that online courses require a level of organization and time management that students are not otherwise used to exercising.”
Many colleges are experimenting with freshman seminars designed to impart time management and study skills to students transitioning from high school to college. Perhaps these seminars need a greater emphasis on how to succeed in online classes. In GenEd, the demand for online instruction continues to grow.