Online courses are not rocket science

February 20, 2013


Thanks to our phenomenal feedback system (‘pulstagningar’), I have been able to have a look at what kind of online (or actually blended) courses our students prefer. The third week after a course has started our students can give feedback about that course. As a result of the feedback the teachers have the opportunity to make necessary changes in the course.

Two of the questions are about our online course platform (itslearning):

  • The use of itslearning supports the information flow on this course
  • The use of itslearning supports my learning during this course

The students can respond with a value between 0 (totally disagree) to 100 (fully agree). Focusing on these two questions, I wanted to see what distinguished the courses with higher scores from the courses with lower scores. So, I inspected fifteen courses from the lower end (between 0 to 40 points) and fifteen from the higher end (50 to 100 points) to see if there were any difference and, if so, what kind of differences.


Four significant differences between good and poor use of itslearning

The result was not at all surprising. There was a significant difference between the high-scored courses and the low-scored courses. It’s important to remember that the survey was about how the online platform was used, not how it could be used (that’s my next step).

First of all, the most obvious difference was if the teacher used the online course platform on the whole. Many students expressed a disappointment when the online course platform wasn’t used at all or very little.

The second observation was about the structure. Those courses with higher scores tended to have more clearer and intuitive folder structure. It was much easier to find the content you were looking for.

The third observation was the instructions the teacher provided. In the courses with higher scores the teacher seemed to be more active with bulletins (news) and current information. One could see that the teacher was more present in that online ‘classroom’.

The fourth observation is also about the teacher presence. This observation was about the feedback the teacher gave the students. The students who got more feedback in their e.g. assignments and discussion forums were more pleased with the course.

With this in mind, it is very easy to create an online course that even the students would use. This is not rocket science, only common sense. But as I said, this is only one easy step to give your online course a makeover.