Study Analyzes Characteristics of Online Learners

By Catherine Groux
Posted July 27, 2012 01:06 PM

A new survey highlights the characteristics of online learners.
A new survey highlights the characteristics of online learners.
In the fall 2010 semester, about 6.1 million students were taking at least one online class, according to the Sloan Consortium, while many of these individuals were earning a degree completely over the internet. As online education continues to establish itself as an important part of academia, Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House surveyed 1,500 web-based learners to analyze who they are and what they are studying.

Who are online learners?

The survey found that a majority of students earning their credentials online - or 70% - are women. Additionally, many of these online learners are young. Today, about 40% of cyber students are under the age of 30, while about 20% are younger than 25. However, the authors of the report believe this could change in the future. As more adult and nontraditional students gain experience with online education, they could be more likely to pursue their entire degree over the internet. 

Why do they prefer online education?

Like traditional, campus-based students, online learners have many reasons for deciding to go back to school and earn a degree. According to the survey, about 46% of online students said they chose to return to college to advance in their current career, while 29% hoped to use their degree to change jobs. An additional 12% of online learners said they wanted to stay up to date in their fields.

Although students could have gained these benefits from earning a degree on campus, they had a wide range of reasons for opting to study over the internet. About 68% of degree seekers said they like that online education allows them to juggle work, school and family obligations. Additionally, 64% said web-based programs let them study anytime and anywhere. 

What do they look for in an online college?

When students decide they want to earn an online associate's or bachelor's degree, the survey shows they consider a variety of factors before selecting a school. While about 75% said the reputation of the college is very important, 73% believe the cost of tuition and fees is a crucial factor. At the same time, a majority of students pick a school based on its recognition in their field of study, career placement rates and acceptance of transfer credits.

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