Photo courtesy UTEP

UTEP Researcher to study benefits of Online Learning

Many college students juggle their academics with other responsibilities such as jobs and family. For those reasons, more of them may consider it necessary to register for online courses to complete their degree plans.

While the assumption that online courses allow for greater college access may ring true, there is no strong empirical data to support that statement, according to Alyse Hachey, Ph.D., associate professor and co-chair of UTEP’s Department of Teacher Education at The University of Texas at El Paso – and she plans to do something about it.

Hachey is part of a multi-institutional team that will study how online opportunities increase college enrollment, particularly among nontraditional students who may use this education method to complete their degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

While the focus will be on STEM, the study will involve online education in general and its role in college degree completion.

This kind of information is important to educators as statistics show that more college students enroll in online courses every year. A Nov. 7, 2018, article in Inside Higher Ed stated that a third of all students take at least one online course.

The article, which used 2017 data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, also stated that overall online enrollment continues to increase for students who enroll exclusively online (up to 15.4%) and for those who mix online and face-to-face courses (17.6%).

“Education has moved to online in so many ways,” Hachey said. “Interest in online learning is expanding so we have to learn more about it because it is changing higher education.” ​

The National Science Foundation awarded Hachey’s crew a five-year, $2.5 million grant in July 2019 for this research.