What do college students want from online learning? (2023)

(9 pages)

online program,Both distance and hybrid studies are capturing a larger share of higher education around the world. Much of the growth in recent years has been fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused campuses to suddenly close and transition to distance learning. However, many students, especially those who want to balance work and study, turn to online learning because it is more convenient and accessible compared to traditional classroom instruction. In fact, a new McKinsey study finds that most college students want to continue incorporating at least some aspects of online learning into their education. However, a significant proportion of students are not satisfied with their universities' online experiences, suggesting that universities could benefit from evolving their online learning models.

About our research

in April 2022,McKinsey surveyed more than 7,000 students in 17 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Our goal was to identify and analyze student preferences and satisfaction with online learning. To provide a holistic view, our survey covered eight components: target students and demographics, college satisfaction and learning experience, importance of attributes for an ideal online education, performance of attributes for an ideal online education, modality preferences , reasons for those preferences, barriers to online education and post-COVID-19 trends. The eight components encompass 24 attributes of online learning experiences.

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To find out which learning models college students prefer and why, what makes them happy about online education, and what elements of the online learning experience they value most, we surveyed 7,000 students in 17 countries across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and more. beyond the Middle East (see the About Our Research sidebar). Investigationcovers eight dimensions of the online learning experience with 24 attributesand therefore provides a complete description of what college students want (Figure 1).


What do college students want from online learning? (1)

This article summarizes our findings and provides a three-step action plan that higher education institutions can use to build and improve their online learning programs. Our goal is to help these institutions provide better experiences and, we hope, better outcomes for the students they serve.

What students appreciate about online learning and what they don't

All of the students we surveyed switched to online courses during the pandemic, and nearly 65 percent of them said they would like parts of their learning experience to remain virtual. Even in France, which had the lowest ratio, more than half of students said they wanted some elements of learning to remain virtual.

Students say they appreciate the flexibility and comfort. When students were asked to rank eleven learning characteristics that should stay or go virtual in order of preference, they identified these as the top three: recording lessons and making them available for later viewing, easy access to online learning materials and flexibility, allowing students to work and study.

On the other hand, many students are still reluctant to enroll in programs that are completely remote. Students around the world cited these top three reasons: fear of becoming more distracted by online learning, boredom when the learning experience is not motivating, and lack of discipline to complete the online program. Although these perceptions may be partially preconceived, they seem to indicate that online programs have failed to create an engaging learning experience for some students (Figure 2).


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What do college students want from online learning? (2)

Social aspects are also shaping attitudes towards face-to-face, hybrid and fully remote models. Students who prefer hybrid learning say they like the combination of flexibility and peer-to-peer interactions, while students who prefer on-site learning say they have more offerings of peer-to-peer support and opportunities. In 80 per cent of the countries surveyed, students indicated that the main reason they prefer face-to-face classes is that face-to-face classes make it easier to get help from teachers than online learning.

room for improvement

In particular, our research shows that student satisfaction with online learning at their universities varies significantly across countries (Figure 3). When asked if they would be more likely or more likely to recommend their university to a friend or family member, students from the Americas were much more likely than students from other regions to make this recommendation. This result does not necessarily mean that educational institutions in countries where student dissatisfaction is highest provide a poor learning experience, but it could indicate that they are generally not meeting student expectations, which vary depending on culture, educational training etc.


What do college students want from online learning? (3)

Our research suggests that higher education institutions can increase their learning online and finds a link between increased satisfaction and growth in online learning.1Growth rates calculated from public databases, not McKinsey survey data.The two countries in our survey with the fastest growth in their online student bases (the United States and Brazil) on average had relatively higher levels of student satisfaction than other countries. This result suggests that educational institutions in some countries have generally been able to develop online program experiences that attract and engage students.

Core attributes that matter

Main differences between regions

all over America,In general, students placed greater emphasis on online learning attributes such as competency certification, omnichannel online experiences, and a pre-course readiness assessment and competency leveling. In the United States and most European countries, students reported enjoying self-study, taking asynchronous classes, and using a smart virtual support platform. By contrast, students in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru value more personal support, such as a coach to help them deal with school, work, and personal problems. Students in Chile, Italy, Peru, Saudi Arabia and Spain appreciate the university's support when looking for an internship.

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To help universities evolve and create more fulfilling online programs, we asked students to rate 24 attributes that shape their online learning experiences. Despite important nuances within some regions (see the "Key Differences Between Regions" sidebar), three tenets of successful online programs have emerged:

  1. The basics are still important.Features that have always shaped the learning experience, such as new content, course structure, and faculty relevance, are very important to students in every country we surveyed. For example, students in 16 out of 17 countries indicated that a well-organized online course with a clear path and step-by-step instructions on how to achieve your goals is one of their top five elements (Figure 4).
  2. Expensive features are not necessarily appreciated.Online attributes that are expensive to implement, such as virtual reality (VR), simulations, and rich visual content, are not highly valued by most students. This result may indicate that educational institutions and students are still figuring out how to use these technologies effectively. However, investments in them are increasing. According to one estimate, the global educational VR market is expected to grow from US$6.37 billion in 2021 to US$8.66 billion in 2022.2 “$32.9 Billion Global VR in Education by 2031: Identify Growth Segments for Investment,” Business Wire, June 9, 2022.Networking elements such as "peer learning in online environments" and "student-led or institutional networks" also ranked in the bottom quartile of importance in most countries.
  3. The age of the students and the type of program do not have a significant impact on the perceptions of the quality of the online learning experiences.Our survey found that what students value most about online learning does not vary significantly by age group, field of study, or level of education (bachelor's vs. master's). While there are minor variations, the consistency of perceptions across groups within each region can guide institutions in developing learning experiences without needing to tailor them to specific groups of students.


What do college students want from online learning? (4)

The successful development or advancement of an online program often starts with finding out what students like about all the programs at a university.

Create an engaging online experience for students

In our work with higher education institutions, we have identified three steps that will help them successfully transform their education programs online to increase student satisfaction and engagement.

  1. Hear from students, set transformation goals, and assess the bigger picture of online learning.The successful development or advancement of an online program often starts with finding out what students like about all programs at a university: hybrid, fully remote, and in-person. Using our 24 survey characteristics, institutions can survey their students to find out in which specific areas online programs are performing well and in which areas they are performing poorly. In our experience, this type of analysis also allows institutions to learn more about the types of students that are attracted to different learning models and which groups of students are most likely to enroll in online learning programs.

    In addition to collecting a comprehensive data set of student preferences, institutions can work with other internal stakeholders to set desired transformation goals, for example, increasing retention, graduation, or employability rates. You can also assess how they currently stack up against those specific goals.other online education providers.

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  2. Combine the basic functions of an online program with differentiating elements.Once institutions have set specific goals, they can strategically assess which features to target to increase the value of their online offerings. Four specific questions may be helpful:
    • Are there alternatives to add or improve a feature?
    • How complex would it be to design and implement this component?
    • What are the relative costs and benefits of adding or developing the new item?
    • How does this effort differentiate the facility from other online education providers?
  3. Design an action plan and a governance structure for its implementation and adoption.Once institutions decide which features to add or evolve, they can design an action plan that aligns with six criteria: size, talent, regulation, customization, speed to market, and investment (Figure 5). This process often begins with identifying and prioritizing quick wins that have high student impact, are easy to implement, and do not require significant new investment. Institutions can then determine an implementation strategy by analyzing which initiatives to outsource and which to build with in-house capabilities. You can also create a team whose members have complementary roles, with the goal of breaking down silos and ensuring that initiatives take into account the entire online experience of students and are solely owned by faculty.


What do college students want from online learning? (5)

The results of our research are clear. Most college students who have been forced to study remotely during the pandemic want parts of their education to remain virtual. However, many are reluctant to enroll in degree programs that are offered entirely online, and some are dissatisfied with the online experiences offered by their universities. Institutions can ask their students what they find satisfactory or unsatisfactory about all learning models. They can then design and implement strategies to ensure their online programs deliver better experiences and ultimately better outcomes for students.

Philip Kindis a partner in the McKinsey office in Bogotá,frank frameI am a member of the workshop in São Paulo,jonathan leyis a senior partner in the Southern California office andJimmy Sarakatsannisis a senior partner in the Washington, DC office.

The authors thank Brenda Affeldt and Mariana Lef for their contributions to this article.

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Why do college students prefer online learning? ›

For these students, they like the ability to take classes on their own schedule and a fully-online program offers just that. A number of students like to be fully online because they prefer to be at home instead of in the classroom.

What do students like about online learning? ›

More Reasons to Study Online
  • Variety of programs and courses: From traditional full-time to a flexible hybrid or completely online programs, your options are endless. ...
  • Lower total costs: Online programs can be a more affordable. ...
  • Convenience and flexibility: As an online student, you can study anytime anywhere.

What do people want from online courses? ›

You can get announcements, access notes, review assignments, take practice quizzes, discuss questions, chat with fellow students and study any time you want. Other than certain due dates, you make your own schedule for completing the requirements of the course. 2. Online courses offer flexibility.

How do college students feel about online learning? ›

Students over 25 years of age say they learn just as effectively online as they do in person. Students feel positive about how colleges and universities will launch online and hybrid programs in the future but are less enthusiastic about taking online courses themselves.

Do college students want online courses? ›

Students are going to keep demanding more and more online education.” The monumental shift online comes amid plummeting state enrollment — which stood at 1.2 million students in fall 2021, about a 20% drop from pre-pandemic fall 2019.

Why are online colleges becoming more popular? ›

Online learning is more convenient for students than ever before, and there's no reason for people not to use it as a resource. With the rise in technology and the demand for education, online courses are growing in popularity, causing them to become an important resource in the education community.

What did you like the most about online learning? ›

Move at your own pace.

Similar to the flexibility component, many students prefer online learning to traditional schooling because they are able to work at their own pace. You don't have to be afraid to work ahead or feel discouraged if you want to take more time on a particular subject or topic.

Why is online learning better than in person? ›

Greater flexibility

Because you can watch lectures or complete coursework whenever it's convenient for you, online classes can be more easily worked into your busy schedule.

Do students learn more with online learning? ›

Scientists looking at the effectiveness of distance learning found that in some studies, distance education students performed slightly better in exams and grades than traditional classroom students, but that overall the average performance outcomes weren't that different.

How do you think online courses will benefit you? ›

Seven Benefits of Online Learning
  • Added Flexibility and Self-Paced Learning. ...
  • Better Time Management. ...
  • Demonstrated Self-Motivation. ...
  • Improved Virtual Communication and Collaboration. ...
  • A Broader, Global Perspective. ...
  • Refined Critical-thinking Skills. ...
  • New Technical Skills.
Sep 25, 2019

What are some advantages and disadvantages of online learning? ›

Summary: What are the advantages and disadvantages of online classes?
FlexibilityLack of face-to-face interaction
ConvenienceDifficulty staying motivated
Cost-effectivenessLimited access to resources and support
Access to a wider range of programmes and course offeringsTechnical difficulties
5 more rows

What do learners want? ›

Learners want “must-know,” relevant information that they can use in their lives. They want to gain knowledge and skills that will help them advance in their careers or accelerate their business growth and development. They want marketable skills that they can leverage in the job market and or corporate world.

Are online students more successful? ›

Similar to the academic year, success rates in online classes are lower than face-to-face classes.

What are the benefits of online learning statistics? ›

Study time is decreased by as much as 60% when done online

In-person vs. online learning statistics show that online learning is just as effective than in-person learning (if not more). In addition to improving retention rate, online learning also reduces study time by 40% to 60% for students and employees alike.

What is the demand for online education? ›

"Students are going to keep demanding more and more online education." The monumental shift online comes amid plummeting state enrollment — which stood at 1.2 million students in fall 2021, about a 20 percent drop from pre-pandemic fall 2019.

What are the most useful things you have learned from the online course? ›

10 Things I've Learned from Online Classes
  • Create a daily schedule. ...
  • Use a planner or calendar. ...
  • Make a daily to-do list. ...
  • Actually attend your online Zoom meetings and be actively engaged. ...
  • Check your email and D2L regularly. ...
  • Email your professors if you have questions. ...
  • Have a designated study or “school” space.

Why is face to face learning better than online? ›

The Advantages of Face to Face Learning in the Classroom

You can access more information and richer understanding through teacher and other students' body language and voice. You have the opportunity to connect with, problem-solve, and network with other students from a wide range of backgrounds.

What is the most challenging part of online learning? ›

7 Top Challenges with Online Learning For Students (and Solutions)
  • Isolation.
  • Motivation.
  • Equipment.
  • Tech Issues.
  • Distractions.
  • Time Management.
  • Barriers to learning (Disabilities / Special Needs)
Aug 18, 2022

Why online school is better for mental health? ›

Learning from home may allow students to learn in a more comfortable environment. Students who experience bullying, anxiety, discrimination, or harassment may find that online learning benefits their mental health.

Do you learn better in person or online? ›

Physical Learning Offers More Hands-On Experience

Face-to-face interaction is essential for greater clarity and understanding than online training. Human contact is vital to enjoy hands-on learning.

Is online learning better or worse? ›

Online learning can be just as good for students if not better than in-person classroom education. Studies have shown that overall, student satisfaction with online learning is high. Of those assessed, 94% said it has or will have a positive return on their investment.

Is online learning better than face-to-face essay? ›

To sum up, face-to-face learning is better than online education because it offers experiences, skills, and relationships that are not available in online learning. Besides, some courses require the physical presence of a student, while others do not.

How does online school affect students social skills? ›

They may also miss face-to-face interactions with fellow students. For some students, this lack of social interaction – and the accompanying need to be self-motivated to get their work done – can lead to feelings of isolation.

What are three advantages of online learning? ›

Advantages of Online Learning
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Reduced Costs. ...
  • More Free Time. ...
  • Increased Course Variety. ...
  • Career Advancement Opportunities. ...
  • Increased Collaboration. ...
  • Personalized Education. ...
  • Enhanced Time Management Skills.

What skills can students develop from online learning? ›

Besides industry-specific skills, online learning allows you to develop critical leadership skills crucial to landing a job.
  • Time management. Time management usually equals excellent leadership. ...
  • Digital literacy. ...
  • Problem-solving skills. ...
  • Work-life balance. ...
  • Online communication.
Feb 25, 2022

What are 10 advantages and disadvantages of Internet? ›

Disadvantages Of Internet
Advantages of InternetDisadvantages of Internet
People would gain knowledge and obtain loads of information about services.It leads to the insecurity of information and data loss.
It permits online payments and digital marketing.It has a bigger Workload and Complex Designing.
6 more rows
May 3, 2023

How does online learning affect student performance? ›

This support can be emotional, behavioral, academic, or physical interaction. The increased use of online learning makes students rely on technology instead of interacting and communicating with others. It decreases the growth of communication skills and results in increased social isolation.

What were the challenges met in online class? ›

  • Lack of Motivation in Students.
  • Infrastructural Problems.
  • Digital Literacy and Technical Issues.
  • Lack of In-person Interaction.
Jun 22, 2023

What are 5 examples of learning needs? ›

Examples of learning needs

Could be IT skills, communication skills, complaint/conflict handling skills, problem-solving skills and lots more. Attitudinal shifts and Attitudinal Learning – re-examining our values and beliefs.

What three 3 things do you most want to know about your students? ›

What Good Teachers Know About Their Students
  • Native language.
  • Critical medical needs.
  • IEP/504s/Giftedness, and other services.
  • Living Situation”, including religious beliefs, safety, food, family, access to books, technology, etc.
  • Grade Point Average & academic strengths.
  • Favorite subjects.
  • Reading levels & reading habits.
Mar 11, 2023

What do modern learners actually want from your elearning courses? ›

8 Things That Modern Learners Look for in an Online Training...
  • Real-World Application. ...
  • Social Interactivity. ...
  • \”Moment-of-Need\” Online Training Library. ...
  • Mobile Accessibility. ...
  • Intuitive Navigation. ...
  • Dynamic Multimedia. ...
  • Visual Representations. ...
  • Serious Games/Gamification.
Nov 29, 2017

Do college students learn better online or in a classroom? ›

While there may be certain social benefits to face-to-face education options, there really is no difference between online vs. classroom learning in terms of the quality of education. Both cover the same material and require the same exams.

What percentage of college students prefer online classes? ›

Online Education Enrollment Statistics

In fall 2021, about 6 in 10 college students took at least one course online. About 30% of students took classes exclusively online.

Are college students struggling with online classes? ›

We found that during the transition to remote learning, 67% of students experienced struggle. The most reported struggles included: shifts in class format, effective study habits, time management, and increased external commitments.

What are benefits of online learning? ›

Advantages of Online Learning
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Reduced Costs. ...
  • More Free Time. ...
  • Increased Course Variety. ...
  • Career Advancement Opportunities. ...
  • Increased Collaboration. ...
  • Personalized Education. ...
  • Enhanced Time Management Skills.

What is better online learning or face to face learning? ›

The Advantages of Face to Face Learning in the Classroom

You'll be able to concentrate harder on your learning because there'll be less distraction than if you were at home. You may feel more comfortable and learn more easily in a familiar, traditional classroom situation.


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