What Do Online Students Want? Student Perceptions of a Quality Online Course

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

There is a gap among the instructors, the Instructional Designers, and the learners’ perceptions of a quality online course, especially when considering the minimum or essential elements to a quality online course that students actually appreciate. This study presents the results of a survey on the key elements to a quality online course from students’ perspectives.


Dr. Yingjie Liu is the Lead instructional designer at San Jose State University in California. She has over ten years of experience in teaching and supporting faculty designing/redesigning quality online and blended courses. Focusing on the concept of 'Faculty as Instructional Designer, 'she always scaffolds the instructors through pedagogical course development and technology integration process so they can independently implement in their own courses. As a certified online and face-to-face Quality Matters facilitator, she enjoys teaching QM flagship workshops to help faculty and instructional designers grow beyond their current online teaching and learning expertise. She is passionate about educational research in online education and innovative technologies, and has led several national studies bridging the gap between faculty needs and course design support. She has also led many research projects and facilitated workshops on Virtual Reality and immersive learning at national conferences.

Extended Abstract

Course design significantly influences student satisfaction (Cho & Tobias, 2016; Hosler & Arend, 2012; Richardson & Swan, 2003) and success in online learning environments (Jaggars & Xu, 2016; Rockinson-Szapkiw, Wighting, & Nisbet, 2016; Yang, Quadir, Chen, & Miao, 2016). Essential predictive factors of student satisfaction with their online learning experience include structured course activities (Ke & Xie, 2009), student characteristics and skills (Kauffman, 2015), effective interactions between students and instructors (Thomas, 2017; Moorehead, 2018), peer interactions, and feedback from the instructors (Moorehead, 2018). As a result, instructors take on overwhelming professional development opportunities to integrate these best practices or quality assurance frameworks into their course design and delivery (Dahlstrom & Brooks, 2014; Dahlstrom & Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). But the gap between the provision of faculty training and support, and the acquisition of that training by faculty lead to negative perceptions of the quality and value of online teaching and learning (Allen & Seaman, 2016; Baran & Correia, 2014; Liu & Dempsey, 2017; Dempsey & Liu, 2017) and negative students' online learning experiences (Jaggars & Xu, 2016).

Presently, there is little research on the gap among the instructors, the Instructional Designers, and the learners’ perceptions of a quality online course, especially when considering the minimum or essential elements to a quality online course that students actually appreciate. Thus, a more cohesive research approach is needed to understand the factors affecting students’ perceptions towards a quality online course.

The purpose of this study was to identify the key elements to a quality online course from students’ perspectives. The main research questions include:

  • What are the students’ expectations of a quality online course?

  • What are the students’ perceptions of quality online course activities, such as reading, communication, group work, and assessments?

  • What are the students’ perceptions of quality engagement and instructional strategies?

Data gathered from over 300 students will be explored descriptively and inferentially. Both theoretical and practical challenges and strategies will be explored. In addition, the online students’ perceptions will be compared to the online instructors’ and Instructional Designers’ perceptions that were gathered from a national survey (Liu & Dempsey, 2017; Dempsey & Liu, 2017).

The presentation will include opportunities for audience engagement and interaction. Attendees will be invited to provide further insights and feedback on strategies that have worked, or failed, at their respective institutions. Additionally, the presentation will foster discussion of the value of pragmatic, technology-based professional development versus more collaborative, transformative focused approaches. Interactive technologies such as PollEverywhere will be used to engage attendees, and capture their insights and perspectives.  Attendees will be provided access to a digital infographic report, representing the most important findings of the study.




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