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Majority of Americans rate online education as good or better than face-to-face education

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A majority of Americans (55%) say the quality of their online education is the same or better than their face-to-face education. These ratings (according to a New America survey) have risen sharply over the past year. From 2021 to 2022, the percentage of respondents saying “better” more than doubled, from 3% to 8%, and the percentage saying “same” increased nearly 40%, from 34% to 47% . This is a real tipping point where the positive outlook for online education is accelerating at an alarming rate and could pose an existential threat to many face-to-face education programs and residential-based universities.

The pandemic has pushed most people in the world to some form of online education and work. And while people were exposed to varying degrees of quality (from hasty makeshift Zoom classes to highly sophisticated world-class online courses), online education was on par with classroom-based education, or worse. The general consensus is that it is. Just as hybrid and remote work are becoming more popular, so too is online education. And this has huge implications for all institutions, educators and employers.

The late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicted in 2011 that half of all universities would close or go bankrupt within 10 to 15 years. It’s been 11 years since he made this prediction, but his 50% win rate doesn’t even come close to reality. But experts in disruptive innovation make it clear (or at least that’s how it feels to those who are being disrupted) that most disruptions start slowly and end quite suddenly. Having been involved in higher education from many angles over the past quarter-century, I have seen the slow-moving wheels of chaos at work. But I never saw what I thought was the tipping point. until now.

I started one of the first educational technology companies 22 years ago. At the time, I considered online education to be a particularly niche area within the education sector. Although very specific, I didn’t expect it to be widespread. The company I founded and founded provided online education on topics like alcohol abuse prevention and sexual assault prevention. These were topics outside the core academic curriculum and were poorly taught (if at all) through sporadic student affairs programs.

We found that students prefer to be educated on these topics privately (rather than in groups). We also found that the effectiveness of these programs was stronger when they were highly individualized. Online has also enabled student-led adaptive pathways in ways that the classroom does not. In short, I believed that online education had better applications than face-to-face, but I didn’t see online as a threat to face-to-face as a whole.

When I was leading the education and workforce development practice at Gallup, I was involved in some research. This reinforced (at least at face value) the importance of a relationship-rich, work-integrated experience for long-term student success. After digging into the results, however, it became clear that this rich aspect of education was not confined to the realm of residential or face-to-face education. The colleges with the highest proportion of alumni who strongly agreed were fully online adult education institutions.

During my time at Kaplan, other insights greatly influenced my view of online education. Having offered students the choice of face-to-face, online, or hybrid learning, we find that student preferences (for all age groups) are most clearly moving in the direction of live-her online and asynchronous learning. rice field. In fact, students now value live online test prep programs more than face-to-face ones. This is a growing theme in many programs, from data science bootcamps for adults to online programs for high school students.

Even long-time proponents of online education are rather taken aback when they look at the latest data on Americans’ perception of its quality. The technology that underpins online education has been around for a long time. However, attitudes and perceptions of learners, teachers, employers and the general public towards online education have lagged at least to date. Suddenly, a majority sees online education as equal or better than face-to-face education. This will ultimately pave the way for a rapidly accelerating disruption in all forms of in-person and residential education.