Which Factors Contribute Most to Student Satisfaction in Online Education Settings?

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What is the best way to design online courses so as to maximize student satisfaction?

A Predictive Study of Student Satisfaction in Online Education Programs investigated 5 factors of online courses to ascertain which ones are the strongest predictors of student satisfaction in online settings.

The article was published in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning and conducted by Yu-Chun Kuo, Andrew E. Walker, Brian R. Belland, and Kerstin E. E. Schroder.

In this study, researchers distributed an online survey to 291 students enrolled in any of 11 summer-session online courses, of which 111 students responded. Most students were between 26-35 years old.

Researchers found that the strongest predictor of student satisfaction was learner-content interaction, defined as the process through which learners reflect and elaborate on the course material.

How can professors increase learner-content interaction? The researchers suggest:

Inclusion of tasks that involve collaboration and searching online resources may help enhance learners’ interaction with content. For instance, problem-based learning would encourage online learners to apply their information search skills to resolve authentic problems, which in turn increases learners’ interaction with the content as well as their problem solving skills (An & Reigeluth, 2008).

In other words, the more that students are encouraged to think about the material and process it in different ways, the more they will value and appreciate the course.

Two other factors found to be significant predictors of student satisfaction were learner-instructor interaction and internet self-efficacy (an individual’s confidence in his ability to carry out internet related tasks). Professors can increase the former by incorporating flexibility into the course setup. Universities can support the latter by proving internet training to students prior to their enrollment in online courses.

Factors found to have a negligible effect on student satisfaction were learner-learner interaction (communication among peers regarding the course material) and self-regulated learning (motivation and learning strategies that students use to achieve their educational goals). That said, the researchers did indicate that these factors may in fact be quite significant for student satisfaction, even though this particular study did not show it.

Which factors do you think contribute most to student satisfaction in online courses? Share your thoughts with us and let us know how you intend to increase student satisfaction in your online courses.

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