Factors Affecting Student Adoption of Online Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

North American colleges and universities are increasing their use of online education. While there is a large volume of literature on the reasons for administrators' offering online education, there is less written on why students take such courses. In this paper, using a sample of 101 graduate business school students, we examine the factors associated with the adoption of online education by students. Implications for administrators are discussed.

Introduction

Online education is creating excitement among educators in colleges and universities in the United States and further afield. For some it offers a way to reach a wider audience, including those not targeted by traditional higher-education institutions. For others, it offers a new pedagogical tool that has the potential to transform the learning process. And for others, as exhibited through the University of Phoenix Online Education model, it is perceived as an inexpensive way to grow their student population and revenues (Economist, 2002; Olsen, 2002). While the reasons for implementing online courses and programs vary, a few common themes emerge from an examination of the literature: expanding access to under-served populations; alleviating classroom capacity constraints; capitalizing on emerging market opportunities--such as working adults--and, serving as a catalyst for institutional transformation (Aron, 1999; Berger, 1999; Eastman & Swift, 2001; Fornaciari, Forte, & Matthews, 1999; Oliver, 1999; Volery & Lord, 2000; Webster & Hackley, 1997).

The use of online education has grown significantly as a result of its real and perceived benefits (McGinn, 2000). Urdan and Weggen (2000) state that revenues from Web-based training for online education are forecasted to climb from $550 million in 1998 to $11.4 billion in 2003. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, states that "education over the Internet is so big, it is going to make e-mail look like a rounding error" (Chambers, 1999). The number of colleges and universities offering online education has also increased dramatically--from 93 in 1993 to 762 in 1997 (Hankin, 1999), including many established universities such as Duke, University of Baltimore, Colorado State University, University of Florida, New York University, University of Maryland, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio University, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Tennessee (Eastman and Swift, 2001). In 2000, U.S. universities offered over 54,000 courses online with an enrollment of over 1.6 million students (Driver, 2002). A more recent estimate suggests that 2.2 million students enrolled in online courses in 2002 (Sausner, 2003).

Despite such rapid growth of online education on campuses, there is a paucity of related research in the business and management literature. As Arbaugh (2000: 213) notes, "because Internet-based instruction is a relatively new means of communicating knowledge, research on this type of instruction is still in its infancy." Furthermore, there is a general lack of research on the reasons associated with the adoption of online courses by students not only in business studies but in other disciplines as well. Rather, the focus has been on the reasons for implementation by administrators. Thus, our main objective in this empirical study is to examine the factors associated with the use of online education by students within a School of Business. This paper presents the results of our investigation.

Literature Review

A review of the extant research reveals that while there is a relatively large body of literature on the growth and use of online education by educators, there is less research on the factors associated with the adoption of online education by students. Demographic variables, such as student and work status (full or part-time), seem to be among the most pertinent in explaining the use of online education by students. …