The 7 best practices for successful digital learning programs


A new study reveals the seven most important measures that colleges and universities can take to improve their digital learning programs.

The study Making Digital Learning Work, released by Arizona State University (ASU), examines the impact of digital technology in education, particularly student success and return on investment for students and institutions.

The research focused on case studies of six colleges and universities: Arizona State University, the University of Central Florida, Georgia State University, Houston Community College, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and Rio Salado Community College.

“These six institutions have a strong track record of using digital learning to serve large, socioeconomically diverse student populations, and each has been a pioneer in innovating to expand access to postsecondary education, improve student outcomes, and provide higher education at an affordable cost.”

Researchers focused on the outcomes and returns of digital learning across different conditions and approaches. The key finding is that when colleges and universities invest in high quality courses, they achieve three critical objectives:

  • Equivalent or improved learning outcomes, higher retention and graduation rates, and faster paths to degrees.
  • Improve access, particularly for disadvantaged students. Participant institutions increased student enrollment, both in volume and specific demographics.
  • Growing revenue and reducing operating costs. Savings for online courses ranged from $12 to $66 per credit hour.

The paper identifies seven promising practices for successful digital learning programs:

  • Take a strategic approach and tailor needs for different student populations.
  • Build capabilities and focus on the quality of the digital resources, as effective online learning
    depends on properly designed courses and curricula.
  • Provide guidance and support to students engaging in full online learning.
  • Train and involve faculty in digital learning.
  • Build infrastructure that ensures sustained high-quality online instruction.
  • Choose partners carefully. Intuitions can advance innovation through successful partnerships.
  • Improve analytics and monitoring.

“The accumulating evidence indicates that well-planned and well-executed digital learning can be enormously valuable for institutions and students. The evidence also demonstrates that the more experience colleges and universities obtain, the faster they can successfully scale up innovations.”