Distance Learning Programmes as Alternative Learning: Satisfaction, Experience, and Enrolment of Community College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Distance Learning Programmes as Alternative Learning: Satisfaction, Experience, and Enrolment of Community College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Luis Miguel Dos Santos (Woosong University, South Korea)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8279-4.ch004
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Abstract

This study aims to understand the satisfaction and experience of programme-seeking students in a community college in the United States. In order to improve the satisfaction, experience, and teaching and learning procedures of distance learning courses and programmes, it is important to understand the students' feedback and ideas. Based on the case study methodology, the researcher collected data from 1,857 inductive surveys and 11 focus group activities. This research allowed the researcher to gain knowledge and understanding about students' satisfaction, experience, and potential enrolment in degree programmes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. More importantly, the results provide recommendations to school leaders, instructors, government leaders, and policymakers about current and future college and university development regarding changes in teaching and learning behaviours.
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Introduction

As a long-term educational development, schools, teachers, and government departments always reform the services and delivery means as students may have different demands of learning purposes (Simpson, 2018). For decades, colleges and universities have invested in self-directed learning, independent learning courses, evening courses, vocational learning, and distance learning as alternative means for students with different backgrounds and needs (Simonson et al., 2008). Although these methods have been employed for decades, traditional on-campus programmes are still the major means for students to seek their education, regardless of method or purpose. The alternative means and programmes were originally developed to cater to Non-Traditional, Returning, Evening, and Adult students (NTREAs) who could not attend day-time on-campus programmes (Dos Santos, 2020b). However, over the past decade, distance learning programmes have attracted a large number of students with different backgrounds and purposes. In particular, enrolment plans reflect this trend.

According to a recent report (Duffin, 2020), in 2012, about 13.3% of American university students were engaged in some distance learning programmes, while 12.6% were taking their degree completely online. These percentages have gradually increased. As of 2018, 18.7% of American university students were taking some distance learning programmes, while 16.6% were taking their degree completely online. Overall more than 35% of American students took distance learning courses in 2018 (Duffin, 2020). Another report, released by the National Centre for Education Statistics (Distance Learning, 2020), indicated that there were nearly seven million American students studying in distance learning courses and programmes at higher education institutions (i.e. those offering associate degrees or higher degrees and participating in Title IV federal aid programmes) during the 2018 academic year in the United States. Table 1 displays the enrolment trends of distance learning courses and programmes.

Table 1.
Enrolment plan of distance learning courses and programmes in 2018
Level of the Institution and Types of the InstitutionAny Distance Learning Courses and ProgrammesCompleted Distance Learning Courses and ProgrammesEnrolment Percentage of At least One Distance Learning Courses and ProgrammesEnrolment Percentage of Completed Distance Learning Courses and Programmes
Level of the Institution
Undergraduate3,399,5672,325,14220.5%14.0%
Postgraduate274,520932,8459.0%30.7%
Types of the Institution
Public932,845932,84521.712.4
Private Non-Profit418,048837,47910.120.3
Private For-Profit102,569614,12610.462.5

Key Terms in this Chapter

NTREAs: Non-traditional, returning, evening, and adult students.

Community College: Also known as junior-level college. Community college provides certification and a two-year associate degree. After the student completed their associate degree, they can transfer to a senior-level university for a bachelor’s degree.

Qualitative Inductive Survey: A type of qualitative data collection tool. The researcher uses the qualitative inductive survey for comments and opinions from the participants.

Alternative Learning: The non-traditional face-to-face teaching and learning strategies. Some alternative learning approaches are blended learning, distance learning, online learning.

Focus Group Activity: A data collection tool. A group of people participate in a guided discussion group for a particular topic.

Distance Learning: Also known as distance education, online learning, and distance-based education. Students and teachers interact, communicate, and learn online without physical interaction in the classroom environment.

COVID-19 Pandemic: A global medical crisis since late 2019. Due to the medical crisis, most of the educational institutions provided different types of online learning options.

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