Success. What a fine idea. Everyone wants to be successful. Yet when you ask people to define success, you get a gazillion of different answers. Success just means different things to different people: be a good student, graduate all levels of school, travel the world, find your dream job, your dream house, build a family, have kids that are good students, and so on. The educational system seems to play an important role in defining success for people, and online education has its fare share of this. But what makes a successful online education, and how can we measure it? Success may be subjective, but there must be some objective metrics that can shed a light over what a successful online education truly means. Here come a gazillion different answers, gathered into only three categories:
Success of online education for schools
Online education comes with higher interactivity between students and teachers and learning materials, and also more feedback. This means, more numbers. Schools and educational institutions have a plethora of metrics for their online programs: number of online courses offered / taken, completion rates of courses, engagement rates with the digital learning materials, students' scores on standardized tests and summative assessments, closing achievement gaps between groups, graduation rates, and so on. They need to measure everything in order to personalize their instructional practices — online or otherwise — and improve all their metrics. There are also some accountability reasons, like maintaining accreditation and institutional rankings and justifying funding.
Success of online education for the employment world
Yesterday's students are today's and tomorrow's employees (or entrepreneurs, but let's focus just on employees for the time being). Employers look for a
set of skills in the new hires, besides any work experience. The success for entry-level employees is based a lot on their ability to gain in-depth knowledge of new subjects, research and analyze data, and apply learning in real world situations. Employers value innovative thinking and critical thinking, expect newcomers to adapt to intercultural connections and to know how to communicate clearly their problems, expectations and achievements, have problem solving skills, and always be prepared to learn more and more. These skills may not develop only in an online learning environment, but they surely aren't hindered either.
Success of online education for students
In this frenzy of successful schools preparing the next workforce for successful companies, it's easy to forget about the most important part of the equation: students. So, what does success mean for students following online education programs? Students consider that the number of hours sitting in a classroom becomes less important that what they actually learn during that time. They want schools to adapt more to their learning needs, not the other way around. Also, they want diverse credentials and certificates that reflect the many ways in which people learn and demonstrate mastery, digitally-mediated or place-based learning experiences, social innovation and ownership of learning in new ways. In other words, they want personalization of learning. The digital environment can make this possible thanks to the use of big data and the analytics and reporting tools of
learning management systems.
In the end...
Successful online education means offering personalized learning experiences to students, which will impact schools' metrics, which will adapt and impact the employment world metrics. Of course, all stakeholders must work together, and take into account each other's needs when setting their success metrics — which is obviously easier said than done; but not impossible. Here's to the success of online education!
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