New Survey Finds Majority of Online Learners See Value in Their Programs

Most surveyed respondents believe that pursuing their online degree is worth the time and cost and will help them achieve their career goals.
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Jessica Bryant
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Published on July 26, 2023
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  • Ninety-two percent of online learners who graduated within the past year already report positive outcomes they attribute to their earned degree.
  • The majority of surveyed online learners also believe their degree is worth the time and cost.
  • Gen Z students are less likely than millennials to say their online degree is important to helping them achieve their career goals.
  • The flexibility of online learning is key to students returning to their institution for future programs.

The pursuit of online learning options is continuing to hold strong post-pandemic, according to a new survey report.

Wiley University Services surveyed more than 2,600 fully online learners pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate and found that 59% of students who enrolled in online programs between 2020 and 2023 are unlikely to change to a campus-based program in the future.

Further, 91% of surveyed students currently have positive views of online learning compared to 82% who had positive views pre-pandemic.

One big reason for these positive views of online learning can be attributed to the tangible benefits that graduates of these programs are experiencing.

Among students who graduated just within the past year, 92% already report positive outcomes that they credit to earning their degree.

The majority of respondents (82%) additionally report that the degree they will earn or have already earned is important to helping them achieve their career goals.

Online Learners See Value of Degrees, But They Are Unsure How Far Their Degree Will Take Them

When assessing the return on investment of their online program, the majority of respondents agree that it is worth the time (80%) and cost (71%).

Online learners so strongly believe in the value of their programs that 8 in 10 respondents report they would enroll in an online learning program again.

And while the majority of respondents (76%) feel that a college degree can lead to better jobs, most respondents also agree that a bachelor's degree doesn't take people as far in their career as it used to (61%).

Generation Z learners are slightly less likely than millennial learners to say that a bachelor's degree will help them achieve their career goals (55% vs. 64%). However, they are slightly more optimistic about how far a bachelor's degree can take people today versus how far it took people in the past.

This isn't the first time Gen Z learners have expressed slightly less interest in attaining a bachelor's degree to propel their career than learners of other generations.

While a recent report revealed that Gen Z students are now viewing college in a more positive light than they have the past few years, these students are still significantly more likely to be open to postsecondary options other than a four-year degree.

Flexibility Remains Key for Online Learners to Return

Just under half of surveyed respondents (47%) expressed that they are likely to return to the same institution where they earned their online degree for another program in the future.

But of those who express this interest, 56% would want any future program they join to be 100% online. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) would want to join a mostly online program with some on-campus courses and just over a tenth (13%) would prefer mostly on-campus courses with only some online.

Further, most respondents (57%) say that if their program wasn't offered fully online at the university of their choice, they would have attended a different institution that did offer it online.

Institutions that want to continue to attract and retain a variety of students must continue to enhance and offer flexible learning options.