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Online Degree Courses now considered an active option: survey report

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Online education, a domain which was limited to students who were unable to study full-time, has now broadened its horizon to include almost all the students from across the globe of the world, owing to the spread of Coronavirus. According to a survey report on ‘Indian Students’ Preferences on Online Degree Courses’ by Shiksha.com, an online education information, there is sufficient reason to believe that a lot of students would prefer online degree courses even though expected hesitations remain.

The survey reveals that for non-technical streams like Arts, Commerce and Science, the willingness of students to opt for online degree courses was higher when compared to students from technical streams. The highest percentage for willingness of students to join online courses was in the stream of Commerce at 47% and was closely followed by Science and Arts, both at 43%. The percentage for Engineering was slated at 41% while Medicine came last with only 40%.

Lack of real college experience attached with the fear of missing out on the campus life was one of the most important reasons which deterred almost 50% of the students from enrolling in online courses. Nearly 35% of online/distance course students and 47% of full-time course students were unsure about the credibility of an online degree.

Shiksha.com attempts to show the two sides of the same coin and points out the advantages of online degree courses as well.

Easy accessibility and cost effectiveness were the two most important reasons for 57% and 25% of students, respectively, which influenced their decision-making process in favour of online degree courses. Another 25% of full-time course students and 31% of online/distance course students revealed that they would opt for an online degree course if it was offered by a prestigious institution. Additionally, 15% were interested in joining online degree courses in general. Cumulatively, 40%, combining both full time course and online/distance course, have expressed their preference and interest to join online degree courses.

Vivek Jain, Chief Business Officer, Shiksha.com has opined that, “Once the lockdowns are lifted and the pandemic situation is brought under control, the educational institutions will start preparing to welcome students for offline classes. However, with recent digital awareness, online education model is expected to emerge alongside. These are transitory times and we expect that going forward a mix of both offline and online degree courses will be the reality. Best of both worlds will come together for a successful education system in the country.

The survey report also encloses 6 recommendations that the colleges/universities can implement to build trust around online degree courses. The six recommendations are elucidated below –

  1. On-Campus Experience and College Life– Apprehension of missing out on all the fun and activities that campus life has to offer, halts the students from joining online degree courses. Removing this fear by including campus visits for the students enrolled in online degree courses so that they can have a taste of campus life, will help attract more students to get enrolled.
  2. College Fees and Pricing– Making online degree courses affordable so that students from diverse financial backgrounds can choose to study these courses is the need of the hour.
  3. Selection– The selection procedure for students and teachers should be stringent in order to improve the quality of education imparted as well as the quality of students being enrolled online. This step will contribute towards increasing the credibility of online degree courses.
  4. Networking Opportunities– Sufficient opportunities and platforms should be made available so that the students can communicate with the professors, fellow classmates, seniors, guest lecturers, experts of the concerned field and the like.
  5. Student Accountability– Student’s work progress, performance and level of understanding should be scrutinised and tracked. This will allow them to take these courses seriously and also, inculcate in them proper time management skills. Another initiative that can be undertaken is to provide platforms for communicating with professors and classmates regarding workload and educational goals.
  6. Accredited Programmes and Validity– Getting accredited by known agencies, along with building credibility also has other perks attached to it such as financial aid for students. This step will undoubtedly, entice more students to get enrolled in the online degree courses of such accredited colleges/universities.
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