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Why We Partnered with Gallup to Study the Online Student Experience

Written by David Sutphen on Mar 24, 2020

In a swift response to the growing Coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of universities around the globe have shuttered their campuses and moved instruction online. With millions of students experiencing online learning for the first time, educators worldwide are now grappling with how to deliver academic rigor, engagement, and connection in a virtual format.

Not surprisingly, some are questioning the ability of online education to deliver successful student outcomes. But 2U and our university partners know that it’s not a question of “if” high-quality online learning is possible—it’s about what’s required to make it great.

For more than a decade, we’ve witnessed the transformative power of online education first-hand through our partnerships with many of the world’s best non-profit universities. During that time we’ve helped our partners deliver high-quality online degree programs to over 50,000 adult learners with strong retention rates—across 2U’s partner portfolio the average student retention rate is 82%.

Last year, as part of our overarching commitment to transparency, we wanted to hear directly from alumni of our partners’ online degree programs to better understand their experiences while in school and since graduation. To help us, we reached out to Gallup, a global analytics and advisory organization. And together, we kicked off a multi-year partnership to evaluate and measure the quality of student experiences and alumni’s career and lifetime outcomes. Gallup has been studying links between higher education experiences and post-completion outcomes over the past decade and has some of the most robust and credible data available on the topic.

Today, Gallup published the first installment of our research together: the inaugural Gallup-2U Graduate Outcomes Benchmark Report. Resoundingly, Gallup found that with the right technology, rigorous curricula, and faculty and student support, online degree programs can deliver outcomes comparable to, and in some cases better than, traditional campus-based programs.

Alumni of 2U partner programs surveyed for the study reported great experiences, great jobs, and great lives. They were more likely than graduate students overall to have professors who excited them about learning, more likely to rate the overall quality of the faculty as excellent, and more likely to agree that they received the academic support they needed from faculty at their institutions. Moreover, 92% would still pursue an online graduate degree if they had to do it over again.

At a moment when higher education institutions around the world are bringing thousands of classes online, this study shows that high-quality online learning is achievable and shares critical insights on what it takes to build, deliver, and support great online education.

As Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup, wrote in her article published today: “Measurement and constant evaluation are essential to ensure students are experiencing the highest quality education, regardless of modality. In its most recent study, 2U reminds higher education institutions nationally how important it is to track the short, medium and long-term outcomes of graduate degree programs.”

To access key findings from the study, download the Gallup-2U Graduate Outcomes Benchmark Report.

There’s more to driving student success online than meets the eye. As universities migrate to online instruction, many for the first time, we’re doing our part to create resources to make that transition as smooth as possible. Learn more about our No Back Row PRO faculty-training product, which is free to all of our partners.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.