Students increasingly accessing online courses via mobile devices

Education Dive | June 21, 2018 - 

Dive Brief:
  • A recent survey from Learning House and Aslanian Market Research that was reported on by Campus Technology found 67% of students enrolled in online courses complete some of their coursework via mobile devices. Of the students surveyed, just more than 50% use mobile devices to access course materials and communicate with professors and 44% use them to communicate with classmates. Furthermore, 45% use mobile to access their institution's learning management system, 41% to conduct research and 40% to complete assignments. 
  • Nearly three in five students surveyed said videos and slide decks provided by the professor were very helpful, and just more than 50% rated course materials and written assignments very helpful. However, a majority of students don't find web conferencing services helpful, and less than half found discussion boards, flashcards and other interactive media very helpful. 
  • Students were also very interested in textbook-free classes, and more than one in four favored year-round courses or courses that could be completed on an accelerated timeframe. 
Dive Insight:

A recent report on access and accessibility from the Online Learning Consortium underscores the importance of making sure all online courses and materials accessible to students with disabilities — remediating materials provided by vendors without accessiblity measures "can be time-intensive, expensive, and publicly embarrassing process" if institutions are not careful to ensure such considerations were taken on the front end. 

However, the reliance on mobile could be more than just a convenience factor — it is worth considering that for many low-income students who may be enrolling in online programs to accommodate their need to work and juggle family responsibilities, their phones may be the only devices they have to access the internet and thus their instructional materials.

In 2012, the average online student was a white female, approximately 33 years old, making about $65,000 per year and whose employer offered tuition reimbursement. In 2016, the average online student is still white female, but she's likely a little younger (31 years old) and making less money (approximately $55,000) at a job that doesn't offer tuition reimbursement. And the share of these students making less than 25,000 per year is rising. 

However, when it comes to learning, screen size does matter. Data show larger screens increase productivity and efficiency "during information seeking tasks," and other studies show that reading text on scrolling displays can reduce comprehension. Some institutions, like Maryville and Jackson State universities, have one-to-one iPad programs to help address those students on campus whose access to larger screen-bearing devices may be limited, but online course designers will need to further consider how to best present the online experience for students to ensure learning is not compromised in the name of increased access.

SOURCE: Education Dive