Reassessing disparities in online learner student engagement in higher education
Paulsen, J., & McCormick, A. C.
Educational Researcher, 49(1 January-February), 20–29, 2020.
Online learning is the fastest growing segment in U.S. higher education and is increasingly adopted in public and private not-for-profit institutions. While the impact of online learning on educational outcomes is becoming more clear, the literature on its connection with student engagement is sparse. Student engagement measures identify key aspects of the learning process that can improve learning and outcomes like retention and achievement. The few studies investigating the link between online learning and student engagement found positive benefits for online learners compared to face-to-face learners in terms of perceived academic challenge, learning gains, satisfaction, and better study habits. On the other hand, face-to-face learners reported higher levels of environment support, collaborative learning, and faculty interaction. However, these studies did not effectively account for the differences in background characteristics like age, time spent working or caring for dependents, and enrollment status. Further, they did not consider the increasingly large population of students who enroll in both online and face-to-face courses. In our study, we used propensity score matching on the 2015 National Survey of Student Engagement data to account for the disparities in these groups’ demographics variables. After matching, we found that some of the previous literature’s differences diminish or disappear entirely. This suggests differences in supportive environments and learning strategies have more to do with online student characteristics than learning mode. However, online learning still falls well below other modes in terms of collaborative learning and interaction with faculty.
Independent colleges and student engagement: Descriptive analysis by institutional type
Gonyea, R. M., & Kinzie, J.
Washington, DC: Council of Independent Colleges, 2015.
Critics of traditional, residential, liberal arts colleges and universities contend that this form of higher education is outmoded, too costly, and no longer educationally relevant for 21st century students. Economies of scale, large classes taught by contingent faculty members and graduate students, and increasing reliance on technology and online learning, so the argument goes, are the only cost-effective means of meeting the educational challenges of the future. This report, prepared for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), draws on the most current NSSE data, from 2013 and 2014, that include more than 540,000 first-year and senior students enrolled at more than 900 four-year colleges and universities. Findings are presented with comparisons across four institutional types: (1) baccalaureate and master‘s level private institutions (CIC‘s predominant membership profile), (2) baccalaureate and master‘s level public institutions, (3) doctoral private institutions, and (4) doctoral public institutions. Included in the analysis are measures from the updated NSSE that includes ten new Engagement Indicators, six High-Impact Practices, the Perceived Gains scale, and a Satisfaction scale. Findings from this study affirm the effectiveness of independent colleges and universities for undergraduate student learning. Students at private institutions are more likely to be engaged in educationally effective experiences than their peers at public institutions. Areas of distinction in the private institution undergraduate experience include a more academically challenging education, better relations with faculty members, more substantial interactions with others on campus, and the consistent perception that students have learned and grown more, in comparison with public institutions.
Engaging online learners: A quantitative study of postsecondary student engagement in the online learning environment
Chen, P. D., Guidry, K. R., & Lambert, A. D.
American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, 2009, April.
Measuring quality in online education: A NSSE–QM collaboration
Sarraf, S., Kinzie, J., & Burch, B.
Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum, Denver, CO, 2019, May.
The purpose of this discussion is to explore the extent to which the actual experiences of learners in online courses align with standards for quality online courses as reflected in the Quality Matters Rubric. QM has a dearth of cross-institutional data. NSSE helped! The question set was administered via the standard NSSE administration in spring 2018 to about 6,000 first-year and senior undergraduate students from 21 four-year colleges and universities (non-profit, publics and privates, some QM members) who responded about their online learning experiences in “entirely online courses” for that term.
Involving online students in high-impact practices
Wang, R., Zilvinskis, J., & Ribera, A. K.
Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum, New Orleans, LA, 2016, June.
Using a large-scale survey of student engagement, this study examined the extent to which taking all online courses affects senior students‘ participation rates in high-impact practices (HIPs), such as internship and study abroad. Online students‘ perceived gains in knowledge, skills, and personal development were also examined by whether or not they participated in a HIP. Overall, findings revealed that online students‘ participation rates in HIPs were relatively lower than students who did not take all of their courses online. Of the six HIPs, online students engaged most in service-learning experiences as part of a course requirement and least in study abroad. Online students who participated in a HIP reported greater gains in knowledge, skills, and personal development compared to online students who did not participate in a HIP. This study suggests institutions should pay special attention to the needs of online students and develop strategies for promoting their HIP participation.