What is it good for? Discovering the driving forces, mindset, and perceived benefits of degree seeking for non-traditional students
Discover the perceptions, motivations, and perceived benefits of degree seeking from the point of view of non-traditional students in online courses. Join us on a road trip adventure to see how you fare in your quest for deciphering mismatches between value to students and current educational processes.
The landscape for higher education is constantly changing. An increase in online course delivery is often met with higher enrollment from non-traditional students. Non-traditional students are typically older (>24 years of age) and may not start their educational journey immediately after high school. Additionally, many nontraditional students have other responsibilities outside of schoolwork, such as a full-time job or dependents. Therefore, their expectations and challenges are unique and are critical to understand for adapting higher education approaches.
Faculty, administrations, recruiters, advisors, and employers can benefit from understanding the background of non-traditional online students, as well as student expectations and perceived obstacles. A better understanding is the necessary first step to begin adapting recruiting materials, advising services, retention models, and course design to tailor offerings and better serve current non-traditional students as well as attract new students. The results of this study will also aid in developing or targeting existing department and university initiatives to adapt and meet the demand of the increasing presence of non-traditional students in traditional and non-traditional degree programs.
To do all of this, we must learn more about the driving factors and barriers to continuing education for these students. Questions we explored include: Why are they a non-traditional learner? What are their barriers to continuing their education? What are their expected outcomes from degree completion? What skills do they perceive they will gain? Do these skills match up with what they believe employers want? Is there a difference by subpopulation?
We have data-driven answers to these questions. We developed and analyzed a survey to provide real insight into the mindset of non-traditional students, specifically in non-traditional degree program modalities (in this case, online learning). Because statistics and research results can sometimes be challenging to interpret, we have created a road trip style presentation where participants begin their “Journey” of discovering the driving forces, mindset, and perceived benefits of degree seeking in e-learning courses for non-traditional students.
The journey begins with the “Current Landscape,” or the trends in characteristics of a non-traditional student. We then move to the “Changing Landscape” where online course delivery infuses work, life, and higher education and can scale tuition at lower costs. This leads us to our “Purpose” for the road trip and the research questions we hope to answer, such as: What are the backgrounds of non-traditional students? How many times have they seriously attempted their degree? Where are students in their career path? If students are out of the workforce, what are the reasons? What are the financial and logistical barriers to degree seeking? What are students’ perceptions of what they will gain from a bachelor’s degree vs. what students perceive employers want?
Then, we dig a little deeper into subpopulation. For example, if I make less than $40,000, left the workforce to raise children, had 50% or more of my tuition paid for by an employer or military benefits, or have a high GPA - does it alter my primary motivation for degree seeking? In our presentation, you can delve even deeper and explore the subpopulations you want making this a quick and fun way to get relevant research results on-demand. It’s your journey!
Plan for Interactivity
The presentation is structured as a road trip. As we prepare for the trip, we make sure we have our data and methods in the car! Then we turn on our GPS and keep our destination in mind - discovering the perceptions, motivations, and perceived benefits of degree seeking from the point of view of non-traditional students in online courses. We make discoveries (research findings) along the way. However, this is not just a boring road trip. Participants hit a detour, where they must forecast student perceptions vs. employer perceptions in an interactive poll before viewing the research results.
We later hit another detour, a blizzard! As we wait for the road to clear, participants reflect on one obstacle presented in the research by a subpopulation. They write down a first step of overcoming that obstacle that they could implement. Then, participants wad up the paper and throw those barriers (I mean snowballs!) away! The presentation then moves you to a snowball fight video. As we speed away, we make it back home and unpack (reflect) on our journey. It is a research presentation like no other!
Visit our discovery session and go road tripping! Hop in!
Faculty, administrations, recruiters, advisors, and employers will be able to discuss the background of non-traditional students, their expectations, and perceived obstacles to seeking a bachelor's degree.
Participants will be able to articulate at least one step in the higher education process that could be adjusted to better serve non-traditional students such as fine-tune recruiting materials, tailoring advising services, adjusting retention models, and adapting course design to reduce barriers.
Lastly, participants will be able to better serve current students and target department and university initiatives to adapt and meet the demand of the increasing presence of non-traditional students in non-traditional degree programs.