A thesis entitled Distance Education: Another Look at the Successful Factors of Online Course at the Undergraduate Level

submitted to the Carroll University Library in partial fulfillment of the expectations and academic requirements of the degree of Masters in Education

by

Chien-Fu Lin

Research Facilitator, Sandra Shedivy

Date

Program Chair, Dr. Wilma J. Robinson

Date

Mentor, Shelly Hankes

Date

Graduate Support Library Liaison, Allison Reeves Grabowski

Date

Distance Education: Factors that Support or Hinder Learning in the Online Courses at the Undergraduate Level

by

Chien-Fu Lin

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Education

at

Carroll University Waukesha, Wisconsin

December 2010 ABSTRACT

Distance Education: Factors that Support or Hinder Learning in the Online Courses at the Undergraduate Level

by

Chien-Fu Lin

Carroll University, 2010 Under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Shedivy

The technology advancements have led to the growing popularity for online learning in the recent years in higher education institutions therefore, it is important for institutions to provide quality online programs. In order to address this matter, it is essential to understand what factors influence the satisfactions of learners as satisfaction is one indicator of the quality of online courses. Six students in a Midwestern university were voluntarily interviewed for fortyfive minutes at the time. The study found factors that effect the learners' satisfaction were the relevance of the course content, the reliability of the program used in the course, the lack of human interaction, the instructors, and the flexibility. Overall, this study provides explanations to the current existing guidelines and highly recommends that university follow the guidelines, especially listening to feedback and making adjustments for improvement.

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Table of Contents
Chapter One: Introduction to the Thesis....................................................................1 History and Background Information.................................................................1 Problem Statement............................................................................................4 Research Questions...........................................................................................5 Significance.......................................................................................................6 Research Plan....................................................................................................7 Limitations and Delimitations............................................................................8 Data Collection..................................................................................................9 Overview of the Chapters..................................................................................9 Chapter Two: Literature Review..............................................................................11 Online Teaching Practice ................................................................................11 Adult Learner...................................................................................................13 Student and Faculty Perception.......................................................................14 Learner Characteristic.....................................................................................17 Motivation, Self-Efficacy, and Learning Strategy.............................................19 Chapter Three: Methodology...................................................................................23 Research Design..............................................................................................23 Research Participants......................................................................................23 Instrumentation...............................................................................................24 Data Collection................................................................................................24 Procedure and Data Analysis...........................................................................25 Chapter Four: Findings............................................................................................26

ii Introduction.....................................................................................................26 Participants Profile...........................................................................................26 Reasons for Taking the Course........................................................................27 Course Content................................................................................................27 Relevance................................................................................................27 Content Difficulties..................................................................................28 Course Design.................................................................................................28 Flexibility.................................................................................................29 Assignment Deadlines.............................................................................29 Consistency of the Assignment...............................................................29 Assignment Design..................................................................................30 Work Load...............................................................................................30 Reliability.................................................................................................31 Adaptability.............................................................................................31 Support System...............................................................................................31 The Role of Instructor..............................................................................32 Communication with the Instructor.........................................................32 Support Session.......................................................................................32 Technical Support....................................................................................33 Initial Training/Information Session.........................................................33 Learner Characteristic and Learning Style.......................................................34 Learning Preference................................................................................34 Learner Perceptions and Perspectives.....................................................34

.............37 Course Development: Standards and learning outcomes guide course design and technology......35 Chapter Five: Conclusion.................... clear summary of course objectives and learning outcomes....................................... quick and accurate answers to questions..................................... synthesis............40 Faculty Support: Technical assistance in course development.........37 Teaching/Learning: Student interaction facilitated in a variety of ways. and evaluation........ periodic review of instructional materials.................. courses require analysis................................................................................ ........................... access to technical support.............................36 Introduction..................................42 Reference.................................. reliable technology.iii Study Skills...... and learning outcomes reviewed regularly.................................. successful practices used.................................................................................................................................... and a centralized system... and instruction in proper research methods............... help and assessment in transitioning from classroom teaching to online instruction.............36 Institutional Support: A documented technology plan....35 Summary.44 ....................................................................41 Recommendations for Future Study.....................41 Rethinking the Methodology............................................ and written resources on student use of electronically-accessed data................... and mutual agreement on student assignment and faculty response times..............................................39 Student Support: Information on programs and support services.................................. costs............................................ data on enrollment... continued training and assistance..............motivation and technology assets. hands-on training and information...........................................................................................................................................................................36 Interpretation and Implications of Results...........................40 Evaluation and Assessment: Process uses several methods and specific standards.......... student access to library resources........................38 Course Structure: Pre-program assessment of self..... timely and constructive feedback..........................................

.................................................................................................................................................50 ..................iv APPENDIX A...................................48 APPENDIX B.....................

if accepted. Keegan (1980) defines distance education having the following elements: • • The separation of teacher and learners. In addition. which distinguish it from private study • The use of technical media.1 Chapter One: Introduction to the Thesis In a small Midwestern liberal arts university. and basic computer skills. distance learning is used to teach many subjects. 2005). which distinguish it from face-to-face teaching The influence of an organized organization. contains the genus of radical separation of distance education from other form . math. usually print. to unite teachers and learners and carry out the educational content • • The possibility of occasional meetings for both dedication and socialization purpose The participation in an industrialized form of education that. In the early days. university. including business. Some undergraduate students expressed dissatisfaction toward their online courses while other expressed satisfaction with their online courses. History and Background Information Distance education has existed as early as 1728 (Holmberg. This study will investigate the factors that lead to learner satisfaction in online courses for undergraduate students. this research will address what the participants feel would need to be done by the university in order to make the experience more successful and satisfying. for example.

Yukselturk & Bulut. there is growing popularity for online learning due to technology advancements (Allen & Seaman. The undergraduate student body is comprised of 2995 students with the average class size of 22.2 Most of these elements still apply the distance learning today and in the recent years. 1994. 2007). a clear picture of the university's background and general technology practice is necessary. Motivation. Class size is usually another factor. which is a very high percentage. Intranet is an internal . however. Dean. All undergraduate students and staff have campus-assigned computer accounts and are expected to check and respond to their electronic mail on daily basis. Therefore. Satisfaction is defined as the reactions and attitudes of learners towards a program (Feasley & Olgren. The university is a high cost tuition private institution in a suburban area located in Midwestern of United State ninety-eight percent of the students receive financial aid. 1998). Online learning places more responsibilities on learners compared to traditional learning environment and online learners are the main participants of the learning process (Moore & Kearsley. & Mellinger. the effect is believed to be minimum (Civian & Robert. There is a distinct difference between internet and intranet. interaction with instructors and other students. the university uses two intranet systems. The faculty to student ratio is 16:1. support services. 1996). 2008). 2005). the size of the university is relatively small and the communication within the campus is split equally between electronic and personal communication. To enhance the communication outside of classroom. due to the unique setting of distance education. In order to comprehend the study. course material and learner characteristics are some of the major factors which might affect learner satisfaction (Biner.

3 computer network within an organization and only accessible to the people in the organization. Students receive further support through university library staff or the campus information technology center. links to different on-campus resources. Internet. lecture slides. email. directory. is an external computer network which everyone who has internet connection can access. and additional information for learners. on the other hand. Instructor-led training. course registration and schedules. defined by Hanks (2003). Rosetta Stone is an interactive program that teaches language. designed to connect learners and faculty outside of the regular class schedule. MyCourse functions as the campus intranet is used mainly for campus announcements. means one or more instructors conduct training in a formal computer classroom setting. faculty can post their course syllabus. and text to teach learner vocabulary and grammar in an intuitive way. The university also provides all student and staff access to Rosetta Stone software free of charge. Instructor-led initial training sessions are required for both systems. and most importantly. These usages of electronic communication channels and technology are crucial . students are taught system functionality and led through a series of steps detailing how to use the technology. MyCourse also supports online discussions and channels to connect with the faculty. This method is also called the “dynamic immersion method. Through MyCourse. The intranet system. There are community computers widely available throughout the campus and information technology center which offers support on computer related problems and campus technology related issues. similar to how humans originally learn their native language. During the initial training sessions." The online education program is accessible through the campus intranet. image. It combines sound. assignments.

this course would be identified as a computer-based course because most of the students' learning is through interaction (exercise. Therefore. The instructor for this course provides the learner with deadlines to follow and the course is required for most majors in the university with few exceptions. therefore. b) one can contact people within the network. and easy accessibility. Due to these factors. These are some factors which were identified before. this study will examine the students' online education experience and their perceptions of aspects of courses with which they are satisfied and things they would suggest to improve. few studies have focused on learner satisfaction with online instruction (Smart K. activities. 2006). The course this study will focus on aims to educate learners how to use Microsoft Excel through online software and one instructor is assigned to facilitate the course. However. c) one can obtain information worldwide. exam) with the computer software. students are required to attend the session to learn how to properly use the software. However. & Cappel J.4 and necessary to the university because: a) one can obtain university news. The most common factor to . Problem Statement Allen and Seaman (2008) suggested that online education and blended instruction (a blend of online and traditional instruction approaches) can be as effective as traditional classroom. In order to design a decent distance learning program. students and faculties can become relatively familiar with the software and computers available to them on campus.. and announcements. 2008). There is an instructor-led initial training course at the beginning of the semester. it is important for educators and institutions to recognize the potential problematic attributes of technology (Zheng & Ferris.

and this particular course has been conducted several years at this university. On the upside. the anxiety of unfamiliarity toward using computer and the software (Zheng & Ferris. However. However. this study could also discover more insights for the following questions: • • • • • What are the factors to a successfully experience for an online course? Does instructor-led roll-out training eliminate enough anxiety? Do undergraduate students have enough motivation for online courses? How do technology-related factors influence students learning? How does communication the factor play a role in the effectiveness for online courses? Using online software as a course has become very common at the university level (Allen & Seaman. flexibility could also be a factor which students benefited from an online course because they could do the work at their own pace and enjoy the possibility to finish the class requirements early. distance education serves the people who are motivated and need the flexibility in order to participate. .5 ineffective online course pointed out by the researcher is anxiety. the course has an instructor-led training course to minimize this effect. 2008). Research Questions The research questions revolve around what factors are the cause of the dissatisfaction. Another factor could be the lack of motivation and interests. 2008). university students are required to take those courses. Generally. Is it the lack of communication between professor and learners or the lack of motivation? In addition. The findings will provide the university with suggestions to improve.

9 millions learners were taking at least one online course during the fall of 2007 and there was a 12 percent increase in online learners compared to the previous year (Allen & Seaman. online courses allow education institutions to serve and educate a greater population without being bound by the physical time and space. There was also a clear growth of online courses being offered by colleges and universities.6 Significance Over 3. Faculties are increasingly using the Internet in their teaching (Office of Higher Education at NEA. and be committed to their education goals. show high levels of motivation. 2002). the benefits of identifying learner satisfaction factors could be grouped to three main items: • Low student attrition: Students who are satisfied with their classes and programs tend to have lower attrition rates. Oblinger (2000) points out the major benefits of distance learning: • • • • Expanding access Alleviating capacity constraints Capitalizing on emerging market opportunities Serving as a catalyst for institutional transformation In other words. 2008). Such an education provides great advantage particularly for non-traditional students. According to Yukselturk (2009). .

it is also important to understand the reasons for satisfaction (Yukselturk. online education will be a convenient way to reach people who wish to learn and develop further. Hence. as the Internet becomes accessible to more and more people. and with the increasing number of courses are taking place online. • Large referrals from enrolled students: Students who are satisfied are more likely to recommend distance courses to family and friends Also. Perhaps. many studies have been conducted to investigate what is the best method to facilitate an online course and different models and designs have been presented. since learners' satisfaction is one of the good indicators and components in ensuring learning outcome and the effectiveness of learning. Qualitative research is a type of research in which participants are asked broad and general questions.7 • High commitment to a distance education course: Satisfied student are more likely to enroll in another online course. 2008). and the data will consist mainly of words (Creswell. 2009). The findings of this study could identify and discover the particular needs of undergraduate students and potentially help develop a better online teaching design and support. online courses are the trend of the future. The researcher will rely on the perspective of . In other words. high learner satisfaction from previously enrolled students helps increase enrollments. According to Allen and Seaman (2008). Research Plan A qualitative research approach will be applied to investigate the factors that contribute to the dissatisfaction in distance education at the undergraduate level.

phenomenological study methods will be used. if "I do not see the relevance of the course to my future" and related terms are mentioned often in the interviews. who have taken a particular online course in the year 2008 or 2009. on the other hand. then relevance would be one major theme. Particularly. The first limitation of this study is the small sample size which would make generalization less valid. For example. the demographic of the university will also make the finding specific to the location and perhaps less applicable to a broader population. Phenomenological study describes the meaning of experience of a phenomenon (or topic or concept) for several individuals. The data collected were categorized and analyzed to search for themes. are boundaries set by the researcher to narrow the study for researchability (Creswell. were interviewed and asked to describe their online course experience and their perspective on how their needs were meet.8 participants and analyze the words for a theme. Delimitations. The interviews will be limited to from six to eight due to time constraint in order to ensure the study completion. Limitations and Delimitations Creswell (2008) defined limitations as potential weakness or problem with the study identified by the researcher. Second. 1999). six voluntary participants. 2008). . 2007). The specific research will be conducted in this particular university and will only interview undergraduate students who have taken the specific online course within a year for recent recollections of the experience and opinions of the course. Hence. Phenomenological study is principally effective to bring the perceptions and experience of the individuals from their point of view (Lester. The fundamental purpose is to reduce individual experience with a phenomenon to a description of the universal essence (Creswell.

The methodology of the research will be described in detail. Data Analysis Phenomenological data analysis aims to reduce the meaning of long textual content to its essences and reveal through the textual description of what happened and how the phenomenon was experienced (Creswell. Reliability and validity of the research will also be discussed. previous findings will be presented to form concepts or the current study. Overview of the Chapters In Chapter Two. No one is allowed to access the data. The computer was password protected and the researcher was the only person with the knowledge of the password. 2007). analysis. The data was transcribed into documents and participants reviewed and made necessary corrections for final consent of using the data. 2007). Chapter Five will conclude the study findings and state recommendations based on the findings and direction for future study. and discussion will be presented in Chapter Four and address the significance of the study. During the data analysis.9 Data Collection All interviews were recorded via a digital recorder and stored into researcher's personal computer. In the end. The findings. The computer was kept in researcher's personal place. in Chapter Three. . the goal is to search for patterns in statements for similar and reoccurring terms vertically (single case) and horizontally (across different cases) to form the characteristics of the phenomenon (Creswell. including procedure and data analysis.

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Institutional Support: A documented technology plan. 2009). student achievement and student satisfaction (Kim & Bonk. Online education is becoming an important long-term strategy for many postsecondary institutions. . The economic downfall of 2009 also had a great impact on education institutions. and e) motivation. 2006). private or public. c) learner characteristics. selfefficacy. This study focuses on discovering factors that influence student satisfaction through a qualitative approach. For example: The decreased availability of good jobs encouraged people back to school along with those wishing to stay employed fueled the increase of online courses. b) adult learner. and learning strategy Online Teaching Practice The Institute of Higher Education has identified a set of 24 benchmarks. There are two ways to assess the quality of an online course. the demand for online offerings is greater than that for the corresponding face-to-face offerings (Allen & Seaman. d) student and faculty perception. In all cases. 2004). it is imperative that institutions of higher education provide quality online programs (Allen & Seaman. clustered in seven categories: 1. and a centralized system.11 Chapter Two: Literature Review For the past six years online enrollments have been growing substantially faster than overall higher education enrollments. Given the rapid growth of online education and its importance for postsecondary institutions. All types of institutions report increased demand for both face-to-face and online courses. reliable technology. This literature review will cover the following a) online teaching practice.

successful practices used. Course Development: Standards and learning outcomes guide course design and technology. synthesis. 4. and on the other hand . Teaching/Learning: Student interaction facilitated in a variety of ways. help and assessment in transitioning from classroom teaching to online instruction. which on one hand enhances the students' abilities to use the technology to learn better. access to technical support. data on enrollment. clear summary of course objectives and learning outcomes. 2004). These are found to be essential to the success of an Internet-based distance education program at any institution (Churchill. and evaluation. they should be happy.12 2. continued training and assistance. quick and accurate answers to questions. These factors also include a humanistic aspect. 6. and when students are learning as they put effort into the lesson.motivation and technology assets. Course Structure: Pre-program assessment of self. Evaluation and Assessment: Process uses several methods and specific standards. These good teaching practices should result in good student achievement in class. periodic review of instructional materials. Student Support: Information on programs and support services. and instruction in proper research methods. courses require analysis. costs. 5. student access to library resources. and written resources on student use of electronically-accessed data. Faculty Support: Technical assistance in course development. 7. timely and constructive feedback. and mutual agreement on student assignment and faculty response times. hands-on training and information. and learning outcomes reviewed regularly. 3. student support.

how easy it is for students to access and participate the course. Adult Learner . According to Sloan Consortium Report (Lorenzo & Moore.13 provides students support to their personal needs. The less cost a student would need to invest in a course for as high a quality course one could have. 2002). This probably also affects the students' satisfaction toward an online course. Other than faculty satisfaction. an institutional organization dedicated to the quality of online education. how effectively the students learned is important. These guidelines were also used for this study during the interviews for examining how they impacted students' satisfaction. the rest closely relates to learners. student satisfaction is one key component of a successful online course. Access. the better it is for the student. it influences the effectiveness of learning and would lead to dissatisfaction as well. One main objective of students enrolling in a course is to learn. identified a framework of five broad areas in which to evaluate the quality of online learning: • • • • • Learning Effectiveness Student Satisfaction Faculty Satisfaction Cost-effectiveness Access Clearly. is essential. hence. If there is very limited access to the course material.

usually categorized as traditional students as they continue their education directly from high school. both full-time and part-time completed the survey. they are already young adults. response to students' questions. according to Rhoda (2005). However. and needs is necessary. As a result.14 In order to discover and understand the factors of online course leads to learner satisfaction. many traditional students display lifestyles very much like adult learners. and how to provide feedback for assignments. At the undergraduate level. The faculty members expressed how students were not prepared for participating in an online course. They found that there have been several qualitative studies exploring factors that impact faculty's willingness to adopt or participate online teaching. Both seek the convenience and flexibility of distance education as a solution to compensate their busy schedule and finish their degrees in a timely manner. a clear picture of learner characteristics. The majorities of the faculty members were within the state of Texas and were teaching at four-year universities. expectations. but there is a lack of qualitative detail as to what the perceived needs of faculty are in regard to self-actualization as online instructors. These researchers created an electronic open-ended survey and a total of 101 university faculty members who had taught online for a minimum of two semesters. Over 76% of the participants conveyed the need for universities to assess students' readiness to learn online. . Student and Faculty Perception Oomen-Early and Murphy (2009) conducted a qualitative research to investigate university faculty's perceived needs for effective online instruction. most learners are around the age of eighteen and twenty-two. faculty expressed that university administration did not fully understand what effective online instruction requires. due to their age. In addition. such as the amount of time required to prepare the course.

online courses could be very different from one another and specific to the subject nature (more discussions for a history course but more problem-solving for a mathematic course) so it should not be the only guideline. Hence. students might not feel they are ready to take an online course. Also. there is a need to include perspective from students and university administration as well. Those findings brought up some great points to examine for the current study. motivating . Faculty also perceived that students expect immediate feedback or a response from an instructor without realizing the time needed for instructors to review and understand what was posted. and support staff for the particular platform the course is using. Technical support is another factor faculty identified as a need. did not receive enough support to actually succeed in the course. and one open-ended question for additional comments. using meaningful examples. technology training. the finding could be utilized as a general guideline to inspect the area to improve of a course. or they expect the course to be less rigorous than a traditional course. Young (2006) wished to take a look into students' perspective on what effective online teaching is in higher education. Adapting to student needs. and at the same time. specific examples including 24/7 assistance available for students.15 whether they do not understand the time commitment an online course involves. Four hundred and forty-one online students were randomly selected and a total 199 were collected and analyzed. However. We must be reminded that these are faculty's perspective. She used a web-based instrument including twenty-five Likert items. Perhaps students feel unsatisfied because they perceived professors have not allocated sufficient time to prepare for the course or provide timely feedback for questions and assignments. identified by the previous studies. hence. but have no other options due to school requirements. The study did not narrow down a specific type of online education which gives great overall perceived needs but not the needs of specific course.

They prepared two questionnaires with Likert scale items and one was given to 893 undergraduate business students. Tanner. Even though there is one open-ended question. This researcher believes that the perspective of the students in this study is pre-determined by the items identified by previous studies. facilitating the course effectively. and c) faculty and administrative involvement to ensure programmatic success. Therefore. These are perceived as essential factors in a successful distance education program. the other to 1175 faculty members. and Totaro (2009) also observed a lack of consensus among online course participants. Consequently. . b) appropriate prerequisite skills. each group might hold different opinions about or perceptions of what represents online course quality. (students. Noser. delivering a valuable course.16 students to do their best. They concluded that availability of multiple tools added flexibility to the learning environment. and administrators) about how the success of online courses might be measured. they carried out a comparative study about faculty and students' perception of online learning. The multiple tools mentioned were: a) technology tools should be compatible to multiple learning styles. Menchaca and Bekele's (2008) meta-analysis results support the finding from the two studies mentioned above. and showing concern for student learning. Perception and expectation are strongly related and the lacking of these core items could lead to changes in satisfaction. There is still the need to compare both perspectives on similar items. were the seven items identified as the core of effective online teaching by learners. faculty. we can find out a lot more with a qualitative study which uses interviewing as a technique for gathering data. Also. the response to it could be very limited because the researchers could not follow up with questions to find out more information. communicating effectively.

Learner Characteristic Yukselturk (2009) considers learner satisfaction as one of the major components in ensuring learning outcomes and determining the effectiveness of learning. gender. The possible explanation to the difference of increase value the experience due to technology. Two major purpose of his study were the extent to which learners' demographics (age. both groups expect flexibility which could be an online course's leading satisfaction factor. Students agreed that the technology required to take online classes increased the value of the experience. where faculty disagree. The interviewing of students in this study could fill a gap in research on distance education. and requiring student to be more self-disciplined. could be that students' learning experiences involved not only the course material. he conducted a study to see if learners' entry characteristics effects learners' satisfaction in an online environment. There is the need for educators to understand online learners. it is tied to the students' grasp of the material presented. etc. education level. allowing students to learn at their own pace. This quantitative study could go further with a qualitative study to find more details of the differences. this study will take a different approach to gain qualitative insight of student perspective on effective online course. Both groups expressed flexibility as an advantage of an online course. For faculty. but also the technology in which it is delivered. Evidently.) could . etc. Therefore. according to this researcher. although studies of student and faculty perspectives have been conducted. Students found no structured class meeting time more appealing while faculty found meeting and interaction outside important. online learning readiness. Therefore.17 Results showed some significant differences in perception about online learning between faculty and students.) and initial perceptions (online technologies self-efficacy.

readiness. were they prepared and did they feel the initial training course prepared them for the course? This study includes more characteristics. how characteristics . and undergraduate students might not be mature enough for the demands of online learning which is similar to the readiness factor. He found out that three characteristics (education level. the others (gender. and prior knowledge) have little influence. or perhaps breaks down the current characteristics to finer points with the intention of pin-pointing the actual factors. Also. selfefficacy. and locus control) have significant impact on learners' satisfaction level. Yukselturk's research studied a specific certified program which for other courses and programs. online experience. Qualitative interviews with the professors were done to gather for the second purpose. in the other words. which could be considered as a determining factor in academic performance and can impact student satisfaction. He related educational level with academic maturity and awareness. Readiness in the study was related to self-directed learning and technical preparedness. age. which could be developed over a longer education experience. The current study addresses this by asking participants about how they feel. Lastly. The results point out how prepared learners were before actually starting the course influences their satisfaction. a quantitative survey was sent to the learners prior to their program to measure their characteristics on eight different items and a post survey for their satisfaction. Interviews with the professor brought up motivation as an important factor in student learning. how the institutions prepared them at the initial course would impact the result. and the instructors' view about the characteristics of learners that affect satisfaction.18 account for learner satisfaction in the online program. The research combines both qualitative and quantitative methods. locus of control referred to the ability of learners to take more responsibility and become more active in their own learning.

19 affect learners' satisfaction could be different because of the divergence in course set-up. d) cooperation and communication. Learning strategies focus on a) study aids. As result. Internal attributions are a) ability and effort. Motivation. They used adapted self-assessment questionnaires to carry out the study with the help of 135 volunteer distance learners. Wang. b) time and task management. and d) reflecting external locus of control. c) lunch and task difficulty. they decided to investigate these factors to create a model of the relationships between psychological characteristics to learning outcomes of the distance learner. and learners' goal. the better the . and Wang (2008) identified demography. and Learning Strategy Summarizing from previous research. self-efficacy. learning motivation. obstacles. Hou. they found out the following relationships: • • Self-efficacy –> learning strategies –> learning results Self-efficacy –> internal attribution –> learning motivation –> learning results (A –> B indicates A influences B) These two relationships show that learning strategies and learning motivation have positive prediction effects on learning results. c) reflection and summarization. the higher the motivation. Peng. Self-efficacy in this study refers to learner's judgment on his or her competence in successful completion of different kinds of learning tasks in distance learning. and f) examination strategy and emotion release. b) reflecting internal locus of control. learning strategies. Huang. experiences. in other words. Self-Efficacy. and attributes as significant factors to learners' learning outcomes. Hence.

therefore. Perhaps learning results and satisfaction level do not have a strong correlation or there is a difference in definition. although self-efficacy has no direct impact on learning result. the better the results. There is a possibility to extend this researcher's study to address the question of whether learning result is related to learner satisfaction by including short questions about participants' learning results and their satisfaction during the study to examine the relationship between their satisfaction level and learning result. hence. interviewing participants about what support the facilitator provides them and what they wish the facilitator had done in addition. They use both quantitative and qualitative methods to collect and . This finding agrees with many previous studies and the perspective that motivation is a key to successful learning. Also. This is interesting because Yukselturk (2009) found that self-efficacy has little influence on learner's satisfaction.20 learning results. However. Therefore. These actions could ultimately lead to higher learner satisfaction. Self-efficacy could be improved by providing initial training session as previously stated and Yukselturk's study also pointed out that course facilitators can provide different learning strategies and motivate learners to archive better results. self-efficacy and internal attribution both have indirect effects on learning results. could give us some pointers as to what might have impacted their satisfaction level. the examination of that relationship is more suited for quantitative research due to the limited amount of data current research would gather and the interpretation of the word would depend on the perspective of the researcher. Motivation has been established as a potential influential factor to learning outcomes. there are different types of motivation. Lim and Kim (2003) conducted a study to examine what learner characteristics and motivation types affected undergraduate students' learning for an online course. similar to the above. the higher the value. it is still influential. However.

Some examples of reinforcement are grades. et al. the current study could compare the satisfaction factors found to the learning outcome factors by Lim and Kim. From the qualitative findings. Affect/emotion is related to attitude toward change. Yukselturk (2009) found no significant impact of gender on satisfaction. peer support. (2008) study. Hence. The analysis of covariance model was applied to further examine the factors. instructor feedback. The question arises whether this factor is less influential if a course is a requirement towards learners' studies. . reinforcement. and self-efficacy. followed by self-efficacy and reinforcement. Lim and Kim (2003) found that course relevancy is the most important motivation factor. affect/emotion.21 analyze data. and they discovered that only course interest has little effect on learners. self-efficacy is positively correlated to learner motivation. degrees of frustration. Course interest could be generated through challengeable learning tasks and creative course content presentation. determination. This strengthens the prior assumption that satisfaction level might not correlate to learning results. joy. They might find the course relevant or useful in the future. Lim and Kim's (2003) study brought up the importance of relevance of the course to learners' goal. According to the result. self-efficacy is one type of motivation and is defined as the degree to which one believes that he or she is able to achieve a given task. Lim and Kim (2003) categorized motivation as five different types: course relevancy. they found gender affected online learner's learning. Course relevancy refers to the value of course content related to learners' jobs or studies. and gratification in utilizing newly acquired knowledge and skills. course interest. and technical support. Interestingly. compared to other categories. Surprisingly. students perceived personal interest as a relatively less important reason to their higher learning. From Wang's.

Consequently. He suggested educators ought to consider how to integrate the development or enhancement of self-efficacy beliefs. However.22 Reinforcements again address the essence of timely feedback and other support system related to the course. and i) self-efficacy. many of those quantitative studies could not find out detail satisfaction reasons. the support system they had. Through a meta-analysis study. this study could find specific reasons about reasons why those factors lead to satisfaction or perhaps discover new grounds for reasons that effect satisfaction. d) showing concern for student learning. The finding of this researcher's study would be compared to the previous results. c) adapting to students needs. 2003) and is repeatedly identified as critical factor of learning outcomes. b) technology training (initial training session). These studies identified the following factors which could influence the learners' satisfaction: a) technical support. and self-regulated learning into training seminars or course modules. g) learner characteristic h) motivation. and how learners felt about their overall learning in the course. Semmar (2006) addressed again the significance of motivation and self-efficacy. motivational factors. reflections of themselves as a learner and how that might have effect them. This researcher's study questioned learners about their online experience. this study will include at least one question for participants to reflect upon and self-assess their own competence. e) communicating effectively f) the difference in perspective among online participants (student. Self-efficacy is the only factor which is not controllable (Lim & Kim. . faculty. All the studies and their findings mentioned above are reflected by the online teaching guideline. Comparing the guidelines to the result of this researcher's study could also provide some insights of possible dissatisfy factors which students might need but could not identify. etc).

Research Design Qualitative research is a type of research in which participants are asked broad and general questions. From the many qualitative methods. Hence. Phenomenological study is principally effective to bring the perceptions and experiences of the individuals from their point of view (Lester. Research Participants . 1999). c) instrumentation. This study's focus was to find out factors which might impact the satisfaction level of learners through a qualitative research method. 2007). The phenomena in this study is the online course experience which learners undergo. d) data collection. it is important for institutions to ensure the quality of courses offered online. A phenomenological study describes the meaning of experience of a phenomenon (or topic or concept) for several individuals. The findings could provide guidelines for higher education institutions to evaluate or improve their online courses. The fundamental purpose of phenomenology is to reduce individual experiences with a common phenomenon to a description of the universal essence (Creswell. 2008). This method is chosen in order to find out more insight from the learners which the previous quantitative research could not uncover. Learner satisfaction is one of the indicators of course quality. Qualitative research is a better approach to discover factors which might not be previously identified. and e) procedures and data analysis. phenomenological study methods were used for this study.23 Chapter Three: Methodology Online education has become more and more popular as the technologies advance. and the data will consist mainly of words (Creswell. b) researcher participants. This methodology chapter will describe the study in the following topics a) research design.

The consent form will be read to the participants before conducting the interview and the interview will be recorded with a digital recorder and stored onto researcher's personal laptop. The consent form and the general interview questions were sent to the participants at least 48 hours prior to the actual interview time. an appointment was made between researcher and participant through email. Data Collection After participants agreed to take part in the study. The location was in a place where noise level is low so the recording device could function properly and where the participant feels comfortable in order to express their opinions. The laptop is password protected to guarantee the security of data and privacy of participants. and b) he/she must be taking or have taken a specific online course. The total number of participants was six to ensure study completion. Instrumentation Two technological instruments will be used in this study.24 The two major qualifications of participants for this study are a) he/she must be an undergraduate student in the university. Possible participants were chosen at random from the pool and contacted via email to ask them to take part in the study. Also. These two qualifications are required to ensure the data are the most up-to-date and participants have enough recollection of their online course experience. The interview questions are general and broad questions inquiring participants' course experience and thoughts about possible improvement and strength. One. a digital recorder to record the interviews and the other is the researchers' laptop to store the collected data. The possible pool of qualified potential participants was gathered through personal referral or volunteers who contacted the researcher directly in person or email. participants were asked to describe themselves as a learner and .

however. The frequency of the phrase would indicate the importance of the factor. These digital interview data was deleted from the recorder after transferring to the laptop and was transcribed word by word to a Microsoft word document by the researcher. . hence. During the interview. For example.” and another said “I could use more instructions on how to use the software. if one participant expressed “I felt that I was not well-prepared for using the online software. The general interview questions and consent form can be found in Appendix A and B. The main task of data analysis is to find similar patterns or phrases from participants' responses. facial or physical reactions to the question. researcher also took notes on participant's posture. The researcher had already heard some dissatisfactions related to the course. Procedure and Data Analysis The transcript of each interviews were compared and analyzed by the researcher. these prior opinions should not and would not influence the objective of the study. this study's focus is on factors that lead to dis/satisfaction to the course. These terms were logged onto a table in order to further compare.25 how that might have influenced their experience.” Then the researcher would mark these two terms and “preparedness of learners to the course software” would be one of the factors which this research found.

26 Chapter Four: Findings Introduction Most higher education institutions offer courses online in one form or another. As a requirement. The researcher interviewed six different participants and transcribed the interviews. The years into their college degree vary and they are pursuing different majors as well. Satisfaction of the learners is one of the indicators of the quality. Hence. and d) learner characteristic and learning style. There has been a few quantitative researches which have investigated the factors which might impact the satisfaction level of learners. it is important for the institute to ensure the quality of the course. This findings chapter will present the results of the study in the following categories a) course content. six undergraduate students were interviewed. . This study used a qualitative research method to examine and explore the same area in order to better explain what may not be apparent in quantitative research. The data were analyzed and categorized by the similarity of the statements. The following table includes some quick facts about each participant. c) support system. all participants are currently enrolled in the university for their undergraduate degree and have taken this course within the past two years. Each individual's name has been changed for privacy reasons. b) course design. Participants Profile In total.

Sasha reflected that she did not enjoy taking the class because she did not see the relevance to her career path. relevance to their career or life. The irrelevance of the topic did not only . The course title is “Problem Solving Using Information Technology. Specifically. The course has an instructor who offers open labs/ support sessions which provides learners to get one-on-one assistance. Relevance appeared to be the top concern of the students.” and focuses on educating learners how to use Microsoft Word and Excel with the aid of software. All the participants talked a great deal about the content and how the content was not relevant to their study. Course Content Course content refers to the information or knowledge the online course offers to the student. Megan also expressed her concern that most of the course content did not apply to her life in the future.27 Name Sam Megan Sophia Joe Sasha Sarah Major Physical Therapy Education Exercise Science Business Finance Physical Therapy Education Took the Online Course One year ago A year and half ago Half a year ago One year ago One year ago A year and half ago Reasons for Taking the Course The course is mandatory for most undergraduate degrees in this university. Relevance. Furthermore.

therefore taking the course was a waste of her time. Students coming into the class with different a previous knowledge base about the subjects and could find the course to be either too difficult or too easy. Hence. As Sophia explained. she was not giving her full effort because she did not really need to try hard to get anything out of it. stated that it was a good thing to have to take the course because they are not very technology-oriented.28 cause the frustration of learners. she felt like a lot of it she already knew and how to do. Therefore. but still wish they could have had an option to choose or not to choose. In addition. She felt the content was something that she would never need so she did not really like to pay attention or remember anything. then she probably would not have. Another factor is the content difficulties of the course. or already have a lot of prior knowledge of the subject of this online course. The dissatisfaction of learners towards course content could relate the fact that the course is mandatory. Most students coming into college know. hence all students need to take it even if they do not wish to. Content Difficulties. Course Design . Megan and Sophie. they found some positive facets of the course. she also reflected about the relevance of the course. however. Megan echoed the fact she knew a lot of the content and suggested that the university should make sure they should know at which level students are. Sam stated that since she did not feel like it is going to help her with her future career. if she had the option of taking the course or not taking it. but their effort in studying as well. the course helped them to better themselves using computers and working with technology. so often times when she was doing the work. As Sam reasoned.

Flexibility was found to be the best quality of an online course. apartment. the system or tools used in the course. he thought that since he could be in the comfort of his own room or dorm room. Consistency of the Assignment. Having consistency in the assignments seem to be a factor which influences students' learning. it was easy for him get familiar with the work involved. She states that having deadlines for assignments helped her prioritize her tasks. Sarah also expressed that having the flexibility was an advantage. Also.29 Course design encompasses the design of the course assignments. Flexibility. Hence. and many other responsibilities. Joe enjoyed the fact that he did not have to show up for class and was able to learn on his own time. the online course was a great asset. Joe stated that because the assignments were setup the same way. Joe sees the down side of having a deadline for online course when programmed into an electronic system because it would be much harder to push back in case of unexpected event such as family emergency. He believes that having this flexibility suits different people's needs because everyone could potentially have jobs. people would have trouble managing their time to complete the course. she also expressed that having deadlines for assignments was beneficial as well. Megan also prioritized her tasks with the aid of the deadline and she thought without the deadlines. He thinks that it would be good transition for learners who . it would be better to have check points in a smaller time frame to ensure learners are not falling behind. Assignment Deadlines. in addition. other courses. or house.

He found that more valuable than just staring at the computer. .30 are not comfortable with technology. Sam explained that she had a job and other courses which she were more important to her. This is especially important because the learners could potentially have the book right in front of them. She felt the work load became a burden and a waste of time. especially when the tasks appear to be repetitive. The appropriate amount of assignments effects students' interests in the course. Sophia said it was easy for her to get used to the instructions after a few basic examples because they are very consistent. as Sam explained. She felt that it gave her an impression that online courses are more of a slack-off course because she does not need to spend time learning the material. It is important to understand that learners have other roles in life. Joe expressed a similar request because he enjoys bouncing ideas off of others and working with other students. they could just open to the chapter and find the answers. Sasha would appreciate having more collaborative assignments because sometimes it is hard for her to understand assignment instructions. In addition. This suggests one of the big criticisms of online course: lack of human interaction. Work Load. Megan stated that assignments and learning example/practice materials should not be too similar to each other so learners would actually have to apply the knowledge learned in the course. long tasks prohibited him from engaging in other tasks on which she would otherwise be working. Megan recommended variability in learning tasks and assessment. Assignment Design. Joe said that the repetitive. She believes it would be more meaningful than just same type of learning every week.

31 Reliability. the ability to problem solve intuitively and look for alternative solutions is much more important than repeating the same process. Joe felt frustrated when he could not finish his assignments as he planned because of bugs in the program and there was nothing he could do other than wait for instructor to debug the problem. Adaptability. The online assessments should be adaptive to different possible ways to solve the problem. For example. Then there should not be only one type of airplane to be accepted as the right solution to the task. it is difficult to get assistance. there are many ways to fold a paper airplane. The available support system for this online course are the instructor. and tools used in the class are very crucial because when problems arise. Sarah always experienced some kind of computer glitches when she was working on her exams and she would not know what to do. software. Joe thought that allowing multiple solutions is important because it would allow students to solve problems more intuitively instead of regurgitate what they learned. and technical support from the software company. and then ended up getting the question wrong. open lab/support session offered by the instructor. Furthermore. if the task is to make a paper airplane. Support System Support system pertains to the various support the course offers to ensure students' learning. especially in late hours during the night and while working on assessments (exams). . he explained that realistically in real life. The reliability of the system.

Most participants indicated that they love having immediate response and feedback after asking a question which is something an online course could not provide. . Hence. Sophia stated that the instructor was able to push her to want to learn more about the subject.32 The Role of Instructor. Sam said she was glad that she still could easily get help from the instructor. was because the constant reminders from the instructor about deadlines and upcoming support sessions. Sasha had a similar experience and found it very effective and helpful for her study. Megan explained that the reason she still felt comfortable enough to seek help from the instructor. even though she does not like computers in general. it is still necessary to offer support sessions for learners. Sarah felt it was important and helpful to her that the instructor seemed available to answer her questions. Even though online education takes away the element of having face-to-face interaction and a more personal connection with the instructor. Support Session. Even though learners of online courses might be taking courses from various locations. even though there was no face-to-face of connection. was able to utilize the support session offered to keep her motivated because she was able to get one-on-one time with the instructor. having an instructor who responds in a timely manner to learners' questions and concerns is crucial to learners. Communication with the Instructor. Sophia. the role of instructor still appears to be one of the most essential factors to both course quality and students' learning.

Sarah learned how to use the software during the session and how to contact the instructor in case of problem. she used the computer lab on campus which is open all week to do her assignments.33 Technical Support. Especially in facing bugs from the tools used for the class. Megan did not feel confident taking this course before the information session because it centered around technology. . the technical support would be equally significant. For him. Technical support also includes providing the means for learners to take the course. Sophia did not have Internet access at home. the reliability of the program used is important. there must be some way to resolve the problem. Otherwise it would be very difficult for her to learn and take the course. Joe was aware of the technical support for the software system used. Sasha was unfamiliar with many terms used in the course therefore the information was hard for her to digest and that frustrated her. however it was still easier for him to send his technical problem to the instructor and he knew the instructor would route the information to the technical support if he or she could not resolve it or addressed the problem directly. Not everyone has taken an online course before and every online course is setup differently. As previously pointed out. She said that it made the transition between traditional course to online course easier for her. Some participants pointed out the value of the initial training and information session for them. Initial Training/Information Session. therefore. She felt better after having more knowledge about the course and where she could get help. Therefore. the important part was that he could continue working on his assignments and his grade was not affected by it. as a failsafe.

with her hands. hence she came into the course disliking it. She felt this online course's delivery of information was too similar for each learning objective therefore she lost her interest over the course period. Sophia favors course content being more diversified in the delivery because it would make the information a lot more interesting and increase her motivation in the subject. This was a disadvantage for her because she felt she did not actually learn the material.34 Learner Characteristic and Learning Style Learner characteristic and learning style refer to learners' preference in learning. . Sam usually makes note cards for what she studies and it is an effective method for her. her perspective changed for the better after taking the course. Many participants expressed that they prefer hands-on learning and the online course did not fit their learning style. However. Learner Perceptions and Perspectives. However. She felt rather limited at a computer by the online program. Sophia stated that she much preferred face to face interaction. their organizational and study skills. she felt that she did not actually have to study for this online course because she could have the material right in front of her when needed. Some participants had negative perceptions or perspectives toward online courses before taking the course. Sarah did not enjoy a previous online course she took. hence she did not like online course. would prefer to make posters and things she could actually work with. Learning Preference. Megan. perception. for example. She said her past experience influenced her motivation and effort studying for the subject.

it is difficult for him to do so for this online course because he does not usually know his classmates and it is harder to arrange study sessions that would work for people. Sarah believed that if she worked on the assignments a little bit each day. the reliability of the program used in the course. Many participants prioritized other courses. over this online course. Each individual students' study skills impact their success in the class. and how easy the program was for them to get used to. especially their stress level. they felt most satisfied with were the instructors. .35 Study Skills. and the lack of human interaction. The factors that they were most dissatisfied with were the relevance of the course content. Overall. although the participants did not take the courses at the same time. However. which are much more directly related to their study or useful to their life. from course content to learners themselves. most of the feedbacks were relatively similar. At the end. Procrastination was reported by some participants as a hindering factor. then she would not be so stressed out before the deadline. Time management would be one of the study skills to influence the learner. Joe expressed that his learning is better when working in groups. Summary The participants explained discovered many factors which potentially influenced the effectiveness of an online course and learners' satisfaction. the flexibility.

2004). This study focuses on the satisfaction of learners because it is a significant indicator of the effectiveness of an online course and the reasons for their satisfaction can provide information to improve the course. In Chapter Two. These seven categories will be used as topics in this chapter to discuss the findings. Interpretation and Implications of Results While Chapter Two sums up several factors which could influence the learners' satisfaction by various studies. The main research question was: What factors are the causes of the dissatisfaction/ satisfaction? In addition: What are the factors to a successful experience for an online course? How does communication factor in as a role in the effectiveness for online courses? How do technology-related factors influence students learning? Do undergraduate students have enough motivation for online courses? These questions were addressed to discover more insights and better explain the main question. student achievement and student satisfaction are two ways to assess the quality of an online course. .36 Chapter Five: Conclusion Introduction The technology advancements have led to the growing popularity for online learning in the recent years (Allen & Seaman. 2008) and it is crucial that higher education institutions provide quality online programs (Allen & Seaman. the seven cluster categories found be essential to the success of an online course by Institute of Higher Education were mentioned (Churchill. According to Kim and Bonk (2006). 2004). This study intends to find detailed reasons for satisfaction and perhaps discover new ground.

educational institutions must have a quality control procedure for both software and hardware used in online courses. participants still found benefits from having to take an online course such as increasing ability with technology. Course Development: Standards and learning outcomes guide course design and technology. and a centralized system. Hence. However. The motivation and effort of the learners would be much better when they see how the course content could be useful to them in their life. It frustrated them and decreased their learning motivation. and evaluation. the relevance of the course content is the most essential factor to learners' satisfaction. courses require analysis. the necessity of reliable technology is confirmed by this study. education institutions need to ensure that the content fits the needs of the students. . According to the results of this study. This relates to Lim and Kim's (2003) finding that the value of course content related to learners' job studies is the most important motivation factor. developing and reviewing the course requirements periodically of each major with life application and career path in mind need to be considered. Therefore. Also. periodic review of instructional materials. synthesis.37 Institutional Support: A documented technology plan. Certainly. reliable technology. All participants were not happy with the bugs and trouble they encountered with the program they used for the course. even though they did not feel the course content was helpful to them.

regular communication from the instructor would increase the comfort level of learners seeking help and even though there was a lack of . In this study. The effectiveness of an instructor was very critical to the satisfaction of the learners in the findings of this study. As some participants reflected. Oomen-Early and Murphy's (2009) study found that faculty perceived students expected immediate feedback or response from an instructor without realizing the time needed for instructors to review and understand what was posted. As stated in Chapter Two. in Lim and Kim's (2003) study.38 Teaching/Learning: Student interaction facilitated in a variety of ways. This study supports that finding. This is an interesting correlation in perception/expectation and perhaps could be resolved by creating a good communication standard and expectation at the very beginning of the semester. most participants indicated that they love having immediate response and feedback after asking a question which is something an online course could not provide. according to the results from this study. Menchaca and Bekele's (2008) finding had similar recommendations for having technology tools compatible to multiple learning styles. it is still essential to incorporate as many different ways to introduce information as possible. However. Also. learners wish to have diversity in content deliver methods and believe appropriate learning tasks difficulty would increase their interest in the course and level of learning. they found little influence of the challengeable learning tasks and creative content presentation to learners' motivation. although the delivery method might be limited in online courses. Hence. This would include more learning preference from different individuals. having variability in learning tasks and assessment would make the course more meaningful. timely and constructive feedback. and instruction in proper research methods.

as mentioned in Chapter Two. education institutions should set expectations to online course instructors on communication to ensure the quality of the course. learners felt the instructor appeared available because of the timely response to questions. and mutual agreement on student assignment and faculty response times. clear summary of course objectives and learning outcomes. This leads to the next category recommended by the Institute of Higher Education. In Chapter Two. but nevertheless require students to be more self-disciplined. This is confirmed by this research. Two recommendations could be made. Yukselturk (2009) found little influence of previous online experience to learners' satisfaction which become debatable according to results of this study because participants expressed that their previously unpleasant online course experience led them dislike the course and effected their effort and motivation studying for the course. However.motivation and technology assets. participants also preferred having deadlines for assignments in this study because it helped them to prioritize their tasks. Noser. and Totaro (2009) found students felt no regular class meeting time more appealing and flexibility as an advantage of online courses. educational institutions have no control or record of the prior online learning experience of students. However. . student access to library resources. Assessment deadlines take away some responsibilities from the learners. Hence. Therefore. Course Structure: Pre-program assessment of self. the timely response from the instructor was important to the learners.39 face-to-face interaction. Tanner. and 2) a well-conducted initial meeting or training section could perhaps neutralize the bad past experience. 1) ensuring the quality of all online courses offered by the institution. participants conveyed that they enjoyed having no regular class meeting and were able to learn at their own pace. which might be difficult.

the faculty support was not well covered. students relied strongly on their instructors for the problems encountered during the course. and written resources on student use of electronically-accessed data. On the other hand. access to technical support. The findings of this study pointed out the value of having initial training and information sessions. After going over the basics of how to access the learning technology. hands-on training and information. . As described above. Faculty Support: Technical assistance in course development. participants did not find the need to know the direct technical support from the company which designed the learning software because they found the instructor was sufficient to help with their problems. However. Hence. Participants felt better after the information session because they had a better idea where they could get help. On one hand. which was not the case in this study. help and assessment in transitioning from classroom teaching to online instruction. learners would express their concerns. quick and accurate answers to questions. Since students were the focus of this study. training or support for the instructors of online courses in order to deal with students' needs is essential to the success of the course. the results of this study showed the importance of access to technical support because the glitches and trouble learners faced during the course. continued training and assistance.40 Student Support: Information on programs and support services. which were resolved through the participants' instructor. the transition from traditional course to online course was made a lot easier. if the instructors were viewed as insufficient to assist learners.

This led to the question of whether those evaluation data from the students was taken into consideration by the university and any action to improve the course was taken. they certainly provided good reasoning for the guidelines and explanation of why they effect learners' experience. Rethinking the Methodology One prerequisite for students to take part in the study was that they must have taken the specific online course within the last two years. and learning outcomes reviewed regularly. This would enhance the findings of the study. it was clear that participants who had taken the courses closer to the interview time had more information to share. participants had taken this course within two years. the educational institutions do not only need to evaluate the online courses but more importantly. This prerequisite was set to ensure the participants had enough recollections of their online course experience. costs. The study itself is a form of evaluation and assessment of the online course. All the factors influenced the online course experience of the participants discovered in this study were well covered by these seven categories. especially from the students' perspective. However. it might be a good idea to set the time prerequisite even shorter. Even though the findings did not necessarily find new ground.41 Evaluation and Assessment: Process uses several methods and specific standards. data on enrollment. but all expressed very similar feedback about the course. . as described in Chapter Four. Every course in the university where the study was conducted is evaluated by the students at the end of the semester. should put the feedback into use. successful practices used. Hence. During the data collection process. Therefore.

As a conclusion. It was hard to determine from this study's qualitative data because statements cannot be translated into numbers. This leads to the last point. the researcher only interviewed students who took a specific online course at the university. the research was unable to determine whether or not there is correlation between students' satisfactions of the course and their learning outcomes. Further research should include more variety of online courses. the time required to transcribe the data should also be taken into consideration.42 The question raised on Chapter Two was whether or not there is correlation between participants' satisfactions and their learning outcomes. the number of the total participants. It is important to find a good balance and not to be overwhelmed with repetitive data. future research could further examine the findings indicated in this study such as factors which would increase the relevance in learners' view in order to provide specific recommendations on improving the online courses. However. it might be a good idea to combine a little quantitative survey with the study in order to answer this question. In addition. Therefore. There is no doubt that a greater amount of total participants would enhance the validity of the results and increase the chances of finding better explanations and information. therefore. it might be a good idea to add a prerequisite to balance the number which might allow more interesting comparisons between the two genders. this study showed the seven categories guidelines from Institute of Higher Education were very inclusive to ensure the quality of online courses. the study could not address other potential factors to students' satisfactions in other online course settings. Therefore. Educational . as described before. Only one participant in this study was male. At the same time. Recommendations for Future Study During this study. Hence. it could be the focus study of future research.

.43 institutions should certainly follow the guidelines to provide students great learning environments.

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DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY INCLUDING PROCEDURES TO BE USED: Participants will be interviewed for one hour. Only the researcher has the original data. please call or write: .48 APPENDIX A CARROLL UNIVERSITY RESEARCH CONSENT FORM Distance Education Chien-Fu (Jeff) Lin DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH BY INVESTIGATOR PURPOSE OF STUDY: This study is design to find out the factors which hinder or support student learning in distance education. Any questions about the study will be answered at any time. FREEDOM TO WITHDRAW: The participation is completely voluntary and that a decision not to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which the subject/participant is entitled. DESCRIPTION OF ANY PROCEDURES THAT MAY RESULT IN DISCOMFORT OR INCONVENIENCE: The whole interview will be recorded and the interview will last for no less than an hour. EXPECTED BENEFITS OF THE STUDY TO THE PARTICIPANT: The participants will gain a better insights about their learning preference and style. USE OF RESEARCH RESULTS: The result of this study will help to improve the distance education in the university and help to develop better design for online courses for future students. EXPECTED RISKS OF THE STUDY: The interview data will remain confidential and anonymous. If you have any complaints about your treatment as a participant in this study.

I have been told of the risks or discomforts and possible benefits of the study. Participant Signature: Name: __________________________________________ Researcher Signature: Name: __________________________________________ Date: _____________________ Date: _____________________ . I understand that I do not have to take part in this study. Wisconsin 53186 262/524-7267 RESEARCH SUBJECT/PARTICIPANTS’ RIGHTS I have read or have had read to me all of the above. Provost Carroll College 100 N. I understand my rights as a research subject/participant. but my records will not be revealed unless required by law. East Avenue Waukesha. and I voluntarily consent to participate in this study. Joanne Passaro. I may withdraw from this study at any time without penalty. __________________ has explained the study to me and answered all of my questions. The results of this study may be published. I understand what the study is about and how and why it is being done.49 Dr. I will receive a signed copy of this consent form. Any identifying information obtained in this study will be treated as confidential and will be safeguarded in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974. and my refusal to participate will involve no penalty or loss of rights to which I am entitled.

etc) motivation self-efficacy . How do you see yourself as a learner? Why did you take the course? Please describe your experience taking an online course.50 APPENDIX B Interview Questions • • • • • • • • • • • • • Please describe the online course design which you have taken. What were the advantages for you taking an online course? What were the disadvantages? What helps you to learn during this class? What kind of support system does the class offer? What do you think about the course program design? What suggestion do you have to improve the class? What things would you do differently if you take this class game? What do you feel you learn in this class? What are the factors which made you satisfy or dissatisfy with the course? Specific Potential Follow-Up Topics • • • • • • • • technical support technology training (initial training session) adapting to students needs showing concern for student learning communicating effectively the difference in perspective among online participants (student. faculty.

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