I’m still pondering an article I read in yesterday morning’s Chronicle of Higher Education….”For Students Taking Online Courses, a Completion Paradox“. The article explains that research conducted on online post-secondary courses suggests that while students may receive a lower grade in an individual course offered online than they would have if they had taken the course in a face-to-face classroom….BUT, that the completion rate for degrees is higher for students who have taken at least one online course.
Several factors are discussed as possible contributors to these findings… however, “for many students the convenience of online can mean the difference between staying in a degree program or dropping out”. That one indicator is very powerful for me…. and I think that within Extension it’s a factor worth noting.
Would it be possible to increase engagement of clientele if we offered more comprehensive curriculum online…. for their convenience? Could we engage tertiary clientele online? IE Train the trainer type courses.
For those of us working with the online Livestock Quality Assurance course, we know that youth have multiple options for completion of their quality assurance requirements, however, we have data to suggest that most of our Nebraska youth select the online option. …Is this a factor of convenience or a lack of local choice? Or a financial factor? (The online course is $5, the cost of participation in a face-to-face course that is offered for free is approximately $14 per youth when taking into account transportation and adult driver’s time.)
We don’t have data that would tell us what the passing rate is for face-to-face classes, but we do know that the majority of youth who get into the online course are successful in completing the three required modules in less than an hour. We also have data to suggest that if they experience difficulties registering for the course, that there is a significant drop in the number of those youth who actually complete…. lending a strong argument for why supporting these online courses is so important.
According to the Nebraska Department of Commerce, the average commute distance in Nebraska is 20 miles… So if someone were to drive their kids to a face-to-face training or attend one themselves, they have at least an hour wrapped up into the course and transportation. So does online extension education constitute convenience? Are there licensure or certifications that we currently are offering only in a face-to-face format that maybe needs a face lift and brought into a modern world?
I get it that our role in Nebraska Extension isn’t necessarily to make education convenient… but isn’t that why we are stationed across the state in local offices…. an office that is convenient to our Nebraska clientele.
How far away is your smartphone?