Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Age Differences

In the previous post I suggested that we needed to compare the demographics of the LSC PSOL students with the students in the peer group to see if there were any significant differences which might make the results not perfectly comparable. My conclusion was that there are several demographic factors where the groups differ, but in total they appear to just about even out without a huge bias either in favor of or fighting against one group or the other. One of the factors of possible differences has to do with the larger percentage of younger online learners (46.2% vs. 34.2%) that we have at LSC. At the Noel-Levitz conference this summer I learned that their research has shown that the younger students generally show significantly lower satisfaction rates than the older students. It finally occurred to me that I do have the data to study for evidence of this phenomenon, at least for the LSC students.

The LSC data does show a huge difference between the two groups of learners. Those 24 years and younger are less satisfied than those 25 years and older on all but one of the 36 items ranked for both importance and satisfaction. The only item where younger students are more satisfied is item #5: "My program advisor helps me work toward career goals." Even then the difference was relatively small (5.21 vs. 5.10 on a 7-point scale) and this was the item where we had the overall lowest level of student satisfaction.

It was also interesting to note that they were not only universally less satisfied, but that they also ranked 35 of the 36 items as being less important than the older students did. Many of the differences in importance are rather large, such as shown in the embedded worksheet below. These 12 items had the largest difference in Importance score from the two student groupings. Scroll the spreadsheet to the right to see the rest of the embedded data.

Again, this really begs the question about how do we alter our services provided on the basis of this information? You let me know if you have any ideas and I'll let you know if I ever come up with one of my own.

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