University News

This week in higher ed: Oct. 17, 2013

University News Editor
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Poll finds skepticism about online education

A Gallup poll released Tuesday shows a mixture of opinions on online education among the American public, including significant skepticism about its pedagogical potential.

The poll, conducted earlier this month, found low overall approval ratings for online learning: Thirty-four percent of respondents rated fully online college programs as “excellent” or “good,” compared to 68 percent who said the same for traditional four-year institutions and 64 percent for community colleges.

Respondents also compared online education to traditional classroom-based learning in several different categories. They favored online education for providing broad curricular options and good financial value. But in-person learning was seen as preferable for individually tailoring instruction, fostering student success and providing strong teaching, among other categories.

The category that saw the greatest differential between the two forms of learning was appeal to future employers: Forty-nine percent of respondents said a classroom-based degree would be more attractive in the job search, while just 13 percent thought an online degree would be viewed more positively.

The poll also showed that 5 percent of American adults are currently enrolled in an online course of any sort, but the bulk of online students are in the traditional college or graduate school age range.

In a separate question, roughly half of poll respondents said obtaining the knowledge or skill set necessary for a specific job is more important than obtaining a college degree, but non-white respondents were significantly more likely than white respondents to choose a college degree as more important.


Survey finds negative climate for some Cornell minority students

A student survey examining Cornell’s campus climate found that racial and sexual minorities feel considerably less safe on campus than their white and straight peers, the Cornell Daily Sun reported Tuesday.

Among respondents identifying as queer, 73 percent said they had felt threatened or insulted based on their identities at least “occasionally.” That proportion dropped to 50 percent among gay, lesbian and bisexual students and to 24 percent among straight students.

Nearly half of black students — 45 percent — responded that they had felt threatened or insulted based on their identities, compared to 20 percent of white students, 29 percent of Hispanics and 32 percent of Asians, the Sun reported.

The survey, conducted by the university’s Institutional Research and Planning Office and its University Diversity Council, found that students in racial or sexual minority groups were much more likely to perceive a moderately or very disrespectful campus climate for people in their groups, the Sun reported. They were also more likely to self-report making personal efforts to learn about diversity.

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