Over 50% of Pandora Listeners Consider Online Classes a Top Factor in Choosing a Graduate Program

Posted By Terri Williams on May 11, 2016 at 9:10 am
Over 50% of Pandora Listeners Consider Online Classes a Top Factor in Choosing a Graduate Program

Research shows that obtaining the right graduate school degree can increase an applicant’s or employee’s level of competitiveness. In fact, a recent survey reveals that 27% of employers want a master’s degree for positions that previously required a bachelor’s degree. And, a graduate degree can also boost salaries by as much as $17,000 a year.

Online program options appear to be a factor among would-be graduate students. According to a recent survey of Pandora listeners, 52% consider online classes a top enrollment influencer for graduate programs.

In response, many well-known institutions are now offering online graduate degree programs. Below are just a few examples:

Graduate Degree College/University
MBA UMass, Temple, Indiana University, UNCC, Carnegie Mellon
Nursing John Hopkins, Duke University, Ohio State, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Engineering UCLA, Columbia University, Cornell, Penn State, Purdue
Computer Technology Boston University, Virginia Tech, USC, Syracuse, Auburn University
Education St. John’s, University of Houston, University of Florida, Michigan State, UMass


So what’s fueling the popularity of online graduate programs? GoodCall interviewed experts who identify four major factors that are driving the growing interest in online graduate programs.

Decreasing stigma

There was a time when online programs were considered inferior to traditional forms of learning. However, Dani Babb, PhD, founder and CEO of The Babb Group, tells GoodCall, “Many of the stigmas associated with online degrees early on – poor quality, lack of good instructors, ‘you can’t possibly learn that way’ etcetera – have now dissipated.”

In fact, Babb believes that online learning is a more viable option today than it was just a year ago, and she thinks it will become even more acceptable every year going forward.  Babb explains that many hiring managers are earning their graduate degrees online, and are becoming more accepting of candidates with online degrees.

She also thinks that acceptance among traditional colleges has helped to de-stigmatize online education. “Students from those institutions don’t get a separate diploma that says, ‘Went to school in the online program’- because it’s the same school with the same accreditation, just a different delivery method.”

In fact, sometimes online education may provide a better learning experience. Robert R. Johnson, PhD, CFA, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, tells GoodCall, “Online education can access a wider variety of expert instructors, as the instructor doesn’t need to be in a specific geographic location – and the student body is more heterogeneous in most online classes, providing students with a more diverse learning experience.”


The lack of an “on-campus” experience used to be a negative effect of online graduate (and undergraduate) degree programs. However, Daren Upham, vice president of enrollment at Western Governors University, says that interacting with instructors and fellow students is no longer an issue. “Online universities are developing a number of ways for students to connect through chat rooms, webinars, and social media.”

But before enrolling in a graduate program, Upham says it’s important to find out how that particular school engages and connects students. “Be sure to ask how you will interact with the faculty and what kind of support is available.”

Babb believes online education will soon become mainstream as more schools (and companies) understand how people learn. “The Internet is ‘the norm’ now, not the exception to the rule: in every area from media/television to how we catch a ride in a city, apps and Internet/cloud-driven technology is normal and not something that is still in the ‘wow, cool’ class.” As colleges look for ways to remain competitive, Babb says they need to stay abreast of where education is going.

As an example of what Babb is referring to, Johnson notes, “The enhanced video and gaming applications used in some online programs are actually superior, in many respects, to the ‘sage on the stage’ approach.”

Convenience and flexibility

Many graduate students tend to have jobs, and some also have family obligations – so they need convenience and flexibility when pursuing a post-secondary degree. “That flexibility isn’t sitting in a classroom 2 nights per week; it’s online – while driving home from work listening to lectures or after the kids are in bed,” says Babb.

Johnson agrees, stating, “The schedule is your own: if you want to study over lunch or at 3 a.m. in the morning with asynchronous delivery you can do so.” And he also notes that location is irrelevant. “You can study at universities not located in your specific geographic region.”

But ultimately, Johnson says he believes that online education is more effective for graduate students than undergraduates. “Graduate students are typically more mature and have a better idea of what they want to achieve through education,” he concludes.

Lower costs

Johnson also points out that students don’t pay costs associated with commuting and parking when they take online classes. “You boot up your computer or smartphone and you’re in class – it is cost effective, as most online educational programs are less expensive than traditional education.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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