Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are Student’s More Engaged Online or In-Class?

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) just released their 2006 Annual Report. This survey of 260,000 randomly selected students from 523 colleges and universities had some interesting findings, not the least of which was that online learning students report the same-or-higher overall engagement scores when compared to in-class students. The data actually make sense if you think about the high numbers of students in large-lecture classrooms in the US who at best feign engagement throughout the semester en route to taking two multiple-choice tests (mid-term and final exams) that measure their “learning.” However, online students did report lower active and collaborative learning scores than their in-class counterparts.

Given that most students will experience a blend of teaching and learning methods—online and in class—we need to explore these data carefully to see what works best in which context to achieve specific learning objectives. However, something NSSE is being criticized for is the private nature of much of their data. Unlike its sister survey CCSSE, which demands public reporting from all participating institutions, many NSSE institutions are able to keep their data from students. I guess some institutions don’t want to engage their students or us in conversations about engagement!


Anonymous said...

Could the data suggest that a hybrid approach (both live and on-line) might be an extremely effective way to engage students? If there is a smaller on-line component to a large lecture class, it might be a way to increase engagement. Conversely, a small "seminar-style" class could have an on-line component that would allow more connection between and among students without constant instructor involvement.

Mark David Milliron said...

I'd love to see this study done. It would make a great dissertation!

MeMills said...

After teaching an upper division writing course online for a few years I am not at all surprised that the survey reports equal engagement between online and seated students. What seems more important to me is the lower scores in active and collaborative learning. Most of my students are first generation college students nearing graduation. Not only do they write about limited good collaborative experience with peers, most report few or no substantial relationships with their major instructors. These students are usually very bright and capable, but their views of their higher education experience pass through a very small window. I--a non-major instructor--am often asked for help with and recommendation letters for grad school applications because they have no one else to ask.

I have real concerns about how to make online education work well for traditionally underserved populations.