Sloan Semester Student Survey results
Two groups of students were surveyed about their Sloan Semester experience; those that had expressed an interest in Sloan Semester, but did not enroll in any Sloan Semester courses, and those that did enroll in at least one Sloan Semester course. A survey invitation and two reminder email messages were sent to all email addresses on record (often to more than one email address per person) with a link to a web-based survey form. As an incentive to participate, all survey respondents were entered into a raffle for an Apple iPod Nano.
How did you hear about Sloan Semester?
One of the largest issues facing those in Sloan Semester was how to get the word out to those individuals that could benefit from the program. A multi-faceted approach was undertaken, including press releases, interviews with the popular press, and direct out reach to the impacted schools. The lack of a communications infrastructure in the New Orleans area meant that it was extremely difficult to reach either the students or the institutions.
Both the interested and the enrolled students were asked how they first heard about Sloan Semester, with similar results: Information from the student’s home institution was, by far, the most common way that they first learned of the opportunity. Over one-half of all enrolled students first hear of Sloan Semester from the home institution, while it was 38.6 percent of interested students. The second most common means of hearing about Sloan Semester was a web site other than that of their home institution (21.2% enrolled students, 30.7% interested students). Getting the information from a friend or family member was the next-most common, with between 10 and 12 percent of both groups mentioning a friend or family member. A newspaper was the first source for only 6% or enrolled students and 5% of interested students. Very few students (under 1 percent for both groups) first heard of Sloan Semester over the radio.
Have you ever taken an online course?
All of the courses offered through Sloan Semester were online. The impacted students were overwhelmingly enrolled in face-to-face instruction at institutions located in the New Orleans area at the time the hurricane hit. Did these students have any prior experience with online instruction?
Interestingly, it was those that chose not to enroll that had the greatest previous exposure to online instruction; 42.8 percent of the interested students had taken a prior online course compared to only 26.3 percent of those that enrolled. In both cases the online courses reported were for credit, with only 2.3 percent of the interested and 1.5 percent of the enrolled students reporting taking a non-credit online course.
Are you planning to return to your home institution?
Sloan Semester was designed as a “bridge” to allow students to continue their education and then to return to their home institution. Both groups of students were surveyed at what would be the end of the both the normal fall term and the special Sloan Semester term. By this time (January) most students would know what spring offerings were available at their previous home institution.
The majority of both groups expect to return to their home institution for spring 2006, with the enrolled Sloan Semester students showing a higher rate (73.1% compared to 60.5%). Around 4 to 5 percent of both groups have completed their programs and will not be returning, and many (9.0% of enrolled and 6.5% of interested students) cite the continuing impact of the hurricane on their lives as the reason that they will not attend any higher education institution during spring 2006.
Enrolled Sloan Semester students are slightly less likely (11.0% compared to 14.9%) to say that they will continue their studies at a different institution than the one they were attending when the hurricane hit.
Did your home institution provide you with guidance about Sloan Semester?
Some impacted institutions provided information on Sloan Semester to their students, some institutions made no mention at all. Those that provided information did not all provide the same level of detail; some endorsed Sloan Semester and encouraged their students to take, others just noted Sloan Semester in a list of possible alternatives, with no recommendation one way or the other.
The enrolled Sloan Semester students were much more likely to have been encouraged to participate in Sloan Semester by their home institutions than were the interested students (43.6% compared to 23.9%). Both groups reported a similar percentage (25.9% enrolled and 23.5% interested) of their home institutions providing information, but no recommendation, about Sloan Semester.
Why did you decide not to register for any Sloan Semester courses?
The group of interested students were asked why they did not enroll in any Sloan Semester courses (they could cite more than one reason). No single cause emerged as the most important for this group. The most common reason (19.1%) was that the student was able to continue their education at their home institution and did not need Sloan Semester. A slightly smaller group (17.2%) made arrangements at a different institution for the fall term. Many students decided to take the term off (12.6%) with personal life issues mentioned by 16.3 percent. Other reasons cited by the respondents included some logistical issues of getting started too late (12.6%) or inadequate computer or network access (13.0%)
Were you able to find all the courses that you needed?
The wide range of students from various institutions meant that there was an extremely wide range of course titles that the students needed for their programs. Of those who enrolled, 43.6 percent were able to find all the courses that they needed in the Sloan Semester catalog, and over half (53.7%) were able to find some of the courses that they needed. Only 2 percent were not able to find any of the courses that they needed (and presumed to enroll in other courses that were not directly related to their current programs).
Do you think that you selected the right number of courses in which to enroll?
While the majority (68.1%) of enrolled students were happy with the number of courses that they selected, there was an even split between those who thought they should have taken more (16.7%) and those who thought they should have taken fewer (15.1%).
Did you complete all the Sloan Semester courses you enrolled in?
Nearly two-thirds (63.3%) of enrolled Sloan Semester student completed all the courses in which they enrolled. Another 23.0 percent completed some, but not all, of their enrolled courses, while 12.2 percent dropped all the courses that they started.
When asked why they dropped one or more courses, personal life issues (cited by 14.9% of all students) and inadequate time to devote to classes (12.5%) were the most common reasons. Time and workload issues (“was taking too many classes” at 8.1% and “got started too late” at 8.7%) were next most cited. Computer and network issues were mentioned by 7.5 percent. There were a large number of additional reasons mentioned for needing to drop one or more courses, but none were cited by a large percentage of respondents.
Did you use online academic advising services offered by Sloan Semester?
Sloan Semester provided an online advising system for students considering enrolling in Sloan Semester courses. Most students (43.0%) claimed that they did not need advising, and another 7.8% used their home institution for advising. Slightly over one third of all students (36.4%) did not know that the Sloan Semester advising service was available. Only 10.4 percent of all enrolled students used the Sloan Semester advising service. Those that did use the service were very pleased; over 94% said that they received adequate, accurate academic advice, with 63.6 percent saying that they followed the advice “all of the time” and 30.3 percent saying “most of the time.”
What was the worst thing about your Sloan Semester experience?
Enrolled students were asked in an open-ended question to provide information about the worst aspect of their Sloan Semester experience. The most common response was “nothing”, an answer provided by 36.2 percent of those responding. Other items cited were the fast pace of the accelerated semester (7.3%), the lack of interaction in the online class (7.0%), and procedural issues in getting registered (7.0%). At a slightly lower frequency were problems in getting books (5.6%), the work load (4.2%) and personal issues (3.5%). Technical issues with computers and online access was noted by only 3.1 percent of the students, the same percentage that said getting final transcripts was the worst aspect.
Opinions toward online learning
Enrolled Sloan semester students were asked their opinions about several aspects of online educations. Thirty-nine percent agreed with the statement that “You need to be better prepared when you take an online course.” Thirty percent “would not want to take online courses on a regular basis” and twenty-five percent believe “online courses are harder than face-to-face courses.” A total of 14 percent of students agreed that “I learned more in an online course.”
Would you take online courses in the future?
Both enrolled students and interested student were asked in they would “definitively consider” or “might consider” online courses in the future. Among the enrolled students 48.4 percent would definitively consider online courses, 44.8 percent might consider, and only 4.8 percent would not consider future online courses. The percentages for the interested students was slightly higher at 55.7 percent who would “definitely” and 40.6 percent saying “might”, with only 3.7 percent saying they would not consider future online courses.
The Sloan Semester project provided a web site beginning on September 1, 2005 where potential Sloan Semester student could record their contact information so that they could be informed when the Sloan Semester course catalog was available for use. Once the course catalog opened, the sign-up process was changed so that persons could self-enroll themselves on a mailing list, again to receive notifications about Sloan Semester activities. Not all of these individuals were students; they also include family members of students as well as individuals from a number of higher education institutions (both those impacted by the hurricanes and those who might be among the course providers). A second group of potential students created a personal account for themselves in the SloanSemester course catalog system, but did not enroll in any Sloan Semester courses.
Many of the email addresses for these potential students no longer work (often as a result of moving due to the impact of the hurricanes), slightly over 200 bounced back. A total of 215 completed survey responses were received from these “interested students.” The exact number of persons represented by this set of 2,653 email addresses is not known; potential students often signed up multiple times with different email addresses as they were relocated after the hurricane. The original sign-up process asked for two email addresses, as did the catalog. A sampling of the data merging on name, suggests that there were an average of about 1.7 emails addresses per person and 1,500 individuals represented. This translates to a response rate of 14.3 percent (but subject to all the imprecision noted above).
A second group of students were also asked to participate based on the records in the Sloan Semester course catalog. A total of 1278 students that created a personal record and enrolled in at least one Sloan Semester course were included in this group. Complete survey responses were received from 335 of these students (a 26.2 percent response rate).In answering these questions, it is important to understand that higher education institutions vary in the types of courses, programs, and disciplines that they offer. Of interest to those studying the nature and extent of online education is the extent to which institutions that provide a particular type of offering also provide the same type of offering in an online setting. The following analysis examines the penetration rate for online offerings by course type, program type, and program discipline. In other words, what proportion of institutions that offer a particular type of face-to-face course or program also provide the same type of offering online?