Online college instruction has improved since the pandemic began, say college students, but instruction on the internet should cost less, reports Center study

September 9, 2020 — A growing number of college students like their online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, but many want reduced tuition if their education is online and not in person, reported the second study on the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future.

The Center’s study found an increase in college students who reported satisfaction with their instruction on the internet: 43% of college students say they enjoy remote learning better than in-class instruction — up from 34% in the Center’s first study in April. While a majority of college students in the current study (52%) say they prefer in-person classroom learning, that number was down from 63% in April.

Fewer students say their teachers are good at adapting their courses for online instruction — now 46%, down from 51% in April. A slightly smaller percentage say they learn less online than in person – 52% in the current study, down marginally from 54% in April.

How do students feel about the online learning environment? A majority of college students in the current study (54%) say they have to work harder when learning online, down slightly from 56% in April. Although a large percentage of college students say their online instruction makes them feel more isolated from their learning community (55%), that number was down from 61% reported in April.

Should I pay less for college online?

The Center’s current study found many college students expect financial relief from their schools if their classes are online. Although most students (89%) say they will participate in the academic year if the school offers only online instruction, almost half said they will participate but expect a cut in tuition (49%)

The Coronavirus Disruption Project

The first round of the Center’s Coronavirus Disruption Study, released April 29, revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and behavior since the COVID-19 pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began. The second round of the study, conducted June 19-26, added new questions about political behavior and compared views about working from home, education, media, entertainment, shopping, and political outlooks.

The findings are based on the results of surveys of 1,000 respondents conducted in English from an online panel, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Center for the Digital Future: revealing disruption for two decades

For more than 20 years, the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg ( has explored the impact of digital technologies on the behavior and views of users and non-users. The center also studies disruption in the lives of Americans and the corporate world.

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