Study: College students prefer classes with online learning

September 23, 2008

What do today’s undergraduate students expect from their educational experience? Online lectures are moving to the top of the list, according to a new study released by the University of Wisconsin–Madison E-Business Institute, a campuswide initiative conducting multidisciplinary research on e-business strategies, emerging information technologies and innovative business practices.

The study, set against the backdrop of a national trend for webcasting college lectures, was designed to understand student attitudes and assess preferences for the value of adding lecture capture to existing courses. One key finding is that an overwhelming 82 percent of the undergraduates in the sample said they would prefer a course that records and streams lecture content online.

“Our research confirms that students have an expectation and strong preference for on-demand and active learning,” says Raj Veeramani, professor of industrial and systems engineering and director and founder of the E-Business Institute. “There are also some significant common drivers that academia is wrestling with: First, creating more effective learning outcomes for students, and second, accommodating more students from a scalability standpoint. To accomplish this, institutions are increasingly turning to new lecture-capture technologies that turn a traditional classroom into an instant source of online, interactive content.”

Students reported better retention, improved ability to review for exams and greater engagement during classes with lecture capture. One respondent said, “I would love to have online lectures in addition to normal lectures — focusing on listening and comprehension during class is very important to me and extremely difficult if I am also simultaneously scribbling notes.”

Additional findings from the study include:

  • Undergraduate students perceive benefits of having lectures webcasted: Leading reasons undergraduates ranked online-lecture availability as very or somewhat important: making up for a missed class (93 percent); watching lectures on demand for convenience (79 percent); improving retention of class materials (78 percent); improving test scores (76 percent); reviewing material before class (52 percent).
  • Value given to having course material available after course completion: More than half of the undergraduates indicated that, even after course completion, having course material available online would be important and that there was interest in accessing online material in professional life.
  • Preference for paying on a course-by-course basis: More than 60 percent of the sample were willing to pay for lecture capture services. Of those willing to pay, the majority of undergraduates (69 percent) expressed a preference to pay on a course-by-course basis rather than having fees bundled with existing technology fees.

The survey was sent to 29,078 undergraduate and graduate students at UW–Madison in April, with a response rate of more than 25 percent. Of the survey participants, a significant number of undergraduates (47 percent) have taken a class where lectures were recorded and available online. Questions offered multiple-choice responses to 10 questions related to the value of streaming of lectures and preference for streaming content.