Online learning: Cheap degrees or educational pluralisation?

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7 Citations (Scopus)


In an era of shifting social and communication norms, where 76% of Americans surveyed reported they reached for tablets to check online communication before saying 'good morning' to partners (, 2014), online education's increased popularity as a 'lifestyle' choice is unsurprising (Ragusa, 2007). Qualitative thematic analysis of 289 surveys by university students studying and communicating entirely in a virtual classroom, however, revealed a plethora of assumptions about the changing nature of higher education. A growing gap between internal and distance education was perceived to impact pedagogical quality, interaction levels between students/lecturers for time purchased through tuition and institutional inflexibility with extensions for subject and/or degree completion. Most (53%) distance students found virtual learning paled in comparison with internal classrooms, despite expressing gratitude for improved flexibly to study at their own pace. Many (35%) students 'hoped' employers would perceive distance degrees equally rigorous, yet ambiguity emerged about virtual degrees' global acceptance as equal in kind and quality with 'traditional' degrees. Despite increased online study and governmental calls to recognize degree accreditation trans-nationally, ensuring quality irrespective of where obtained (Barber, Donnelly, & Rizvi, 2013), virtual degrees remain risky not because students perceive them as cheap consumer-products, but because much human capital and institutional investment are required for success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Technology
Early online dateAug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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