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.

i

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

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

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

In the early days. 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. and basic computer skills. 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. contains the genus of radical separation of distance education from other form . university. 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. which distinguish it from face-to-face teaching The influence of an organized organization. Some undergraduate students expressed dissatisfaction toward their online courses while other expressed satisfaction with their online courses. math. usually print. for example. Keegan (1980) defines distance education having the following elements: • • The separation of teacher and learners. distance learning is used to teach many subjects. including business. which distinguish it from private study • The use of technical media. In addition. 2005). if accepted.1 Chapter One: Introduction to the Thesis In a small Midwestern liberal arts university.

1996). due to the unique setting of distance education. All undergraduate students and staff have campus-assigned computer accounts and are expected to check and respond to their electronic mail on daily basis. Yukselturk & Bulut. Satisfaction is defined as the reactions and attitudes of learners towards a program (Feasley & Olgren. Therefore. Motivation. 2008). 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. a clear picture of the university's background and general technology practice is necessary. The undergraduate student body is comprised of 2995 students with the average class size of 22. 1994. In order to comprehend the study. 2007). the size of the university is relatively small and the communication within the campus is split equally between electronic and personal communication. Dean. however. 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. There is a distinct difference between internet and intranet. 1998). there is growing popularity for online learning due to technology advancements (Allen & Seaman. interaction with instructors and other students. which is a very high percentage.2 Most of these elements still apply the distance learning today and in the recent years. the effect is believed to be minimum (Civian & Robert. the university uses two intranet systems. support services. & Mellinger. 2005). To enhance the communication outside of classroom. course material and learner characteristics are some of the major factors which might affect learner satisfaction (Biner. Intranet is an internal . Class size is usually another factor. The faculty to student ratio is 16:1.

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

b) one can contact people within the network. 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. students and faculties can become relatively familiar with the software and computers available to them on campus. 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. 2006). and easy accessibility. 2008). students are required to attend the session to learn how to properly use the software. few studies have focused on learner satisfaction with online instruction (Smart K. activities. 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. this course would be identified as a computer-based course because most of the students' learning is through interaction (exercise. The most common factor to . Due to these factors.4 and necessary to the university because: a) one can obtain university news. These are some factors which were identified before. 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. However. In order to design a decent distance learning program. Therefore. therefore. exam) with the computer software. 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.. & Cappel J. c) one can obtain information worldwide. However. and announcements.

5 ineffective online course pointed out by the researcher is anxiety. the anxiety of unfamiliarity toward using computer and the software (Zheng & Ferris. . 2008). However. distance education serves the people who are motivated and need the flexibility in order to participate. and this particular course has been conducted several years at this university. On the upside. 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. Another factor could be the lack of motivation and interests. university students are required to take those courses. the course has an instructor-led training course to minimize this effect. 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. Research Questions The research questions revolve around what factors are the cause of the dissatisfaction. Is it the lack of communication between professor and learners or the lack of motivation? In addition. However. 2008). Generally. The findings will provide the university with suggestions to improve.

. There was also a clear growth of online courses being offered by colleges and universities. 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. Faculties are increasingly using the Internet in their teaching (Office of Higher Education at NEA. 2002).6 Significance Over 3. Such an education provides great advantage particularly for non-traditional students. show high levels of motivation. and be committed to their education goals.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. 2008). According to Yukselturk (2009). online courses allow education institutions to serve and educate a greater population without being bound by the physical time and space. 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.

2009). 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. 2008). Qualitative research is a type of research in which participants are asked broad and general questions. The researcher will rely on the perspective of . it is also important to understand the reasons for satisfaction (Yukselturk. • Large referrals from enrolled students: Students who are satisfied are more likely to recommend distance courses to family and friends Also. 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. According to Allen and Seaman (2008). In other words. online education will be a convenient way to reach people who wish to learn and develop further. 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.7 • High commitment to a distance education course: Satisfied student are more likely to enroll in another online course. and with the increasing number of courses are taking place online. online courses are the trend of the future. Perhaps. as the Internet becomes accessible to more and more people. and the data will consist mainly of words (Creswell. Hence. since learners' satisfaction is one of the good indicators and components in ensuring learning outcome and the effectiveness of learning. high learner satisfaction from previously enrolled students helps increase enrollments.

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

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. previous findings will be presented to form concepts or the current study. 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. The findings. in Chapter Three. The data was transcribed into documents and participants reviewed and made necessary corrections for final consent of using the data. The computer was kept in researcher's personal place. analysis. . In the end. No one is allowed to access the data. including procedure and data analysis. Overview of the Chapters In Chapter Two. and discussion will be presented in Chapter Four and address the significance of the study. 2007). The methodology of the research will be described in detail. During the data analysis. Reliability and validity of the research will also be discussed. Chapter Five will conclude the study findings and state recommendations based on the findings and direction for future study.9 Data Collection All interviews were recorded via a digital recorder and stored into researcher's personal computer. The computer was password protected and the researcher was the only person with the knowledge of the password. 2007).

10 .

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

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

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

according to Rhoda (2005). faculty expressed that university administration did not fully understand what effective online instruction requires. 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. 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. The faculty members expressed how students were not prepared for participating in an online course. response to students' questions. expectations. due to their age. As a result. In addition. They found that there have been several qualitative studies exploring factors that impact faculty's willingness to adopt or participate online teaching. and how to provide feedback for assignments. and needs is necessary. they are already young adults.14 In order to discover and understand the factors of online course leads to learner satisfaction. Over 76% of the participants conveyed the need for universities to assess students' readiness to learn online. At the undergraduate level. such as the amount of time required to prepare the course. usually categorized as traditional students as they continue their education directly from high school. most learners are around the age of eighteen and twenty-two. both full-time and part-time completed the survey. 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. many traditional students display lifestyles very much like adult learners. However. Student and Faculty Perception Oomen-Early and Murphy (2009) conducted a qualitative research to investigate university faculty's perceived needs for effective online instruction. . 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.

She used a web-based instrument including twenty-five Likert items. the finding could be utilized as a general guideline to inspect the area to improve of a course. 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. hence. but have no other options due to school requirements. Hence. identified by the previous studies. Technical support is another factor faculty identified as a need. and at the same time. Adapting to student needs. students might not feel they are ready to take an online course. specific examples including 24/7 assistance available for students. motivating . Four hundred and forty-one online students were randomly selected and a total 199 were collected and analyzed.15 whether they do not understand the time commitment an online course involves. and one open-ended question for additional comments. Young (2006) wished to take a look into students' perspective on what effective online teaching is in higher education. and support staff for the particular platform the course is using. 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. 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. 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. However. 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. did not receive enough support to actually succeed in the course. using meaningful examples. We must be reminded that these are faculty's perspective. technology training. or they expect the course to be less rigorous than a traditional course. Also.

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

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

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

d) cooperation and communication. Internal attributions are a) ability and effort. Hence.19 affect learners' satisfaction could be different because of the divergence in course set-up. and attributes as significant factors to learners' learning outcomes. self-efficacy. the better the . 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. learning strategies. Huang. Wang. 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. and f) examination strategy and emotion release. they decided to investigate these factors to create a model of the relationships between psychological characteristics to learning outcomes of the distance learner. and Learning Strategy Summarizing from previous research. and Wang (2008) identified demography. c) lunch and task difficulty. As result. They used adapted self-assessment questionnaires to carry out the study with the help of 135 volunteer distance learners. the higher the motivation. experiences. and learners' goal. Self-Efficacy. learning motivation. b) time and task management. Motivation. b) reflecting internal locus of control. Peng. and d) reflecting external locus of control. obstacles. Learning strategies focus on a) study aids. in other words. c) reflection and summarization. Hou.

similar to the above. although self-efficacy has no direct impact on learning result. Motivation has been established as a potential influential factor to learning outcomes. self-efficacy and internal attribution both have indirect effects on learning results. This finding agrees with many previous studies and the perspective that motivation is a key to successful learning. hence.20 learning results. Perhaps learning results and satisfaction level do not have a strong correlation or there is a difference in definition. This is interesting because Yukselturk (2009) found that self-efficacy has little influence on learner's satisfaction. 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. They use both quantitative and qualitative methods to collect and . These actions could ultimately lead to higher learner satisfaction. Lim and Kim (2003) conducted a study to examine what learner characteristics and motivation types affected undergraduate students' learning for an online course. However. 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. However. the higher the value. there are different types of motivation. interviewing participants about what support the facilitator provides them and what they wish the facilitator had done in addition. therefore. Also. could give us some pointers as to what might have impacted their satisfaction level. the better the results. it is still influential. Therefore. 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.

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

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

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

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. an appointment was made between researcher and participant through email. a digital recorder to record the interviews and the other is the researchers' laptop to store the collected data. participants were asked to describe themselves as a learner and . Possible participants were chosen at random from the pool and contacted via email to ask them to take part in the study. The interview questions are general and broad questions inquiring participants' course experience and thoughts about possible improvement and strength. The consent form and the general interview questions were sent to the participants at least 48 hours prior to the actual interview time. and b) he/she must be taking or have taken a specific online course. 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. Data Collection After participants agreed to take part in the study. One. Instrumentation Two technological instruments will be used in this study. The total number of participants was six to ensure study completion. 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. Also.24 The two major qualifications of participants for this study are a) he/she must be an undergraduate student in the university. The laptop is password protected to guarantee the security of data and privacy of participants. The possible pool of qualified potential participants was gathered through personal referral or volunteers who contacted the researcher directly in person or email.

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.” 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. if one participant expressed “I felt that I was not well-prepared for using the online software.” and another said “I could use more instructions on how to use the software. 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. hence. researcher also took notes on participant's posture. The frequency of the phrase would indicate the importance of the factor.25 how that might have influenced their experience. 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. however. During the interview. The researcher had already heard some dissatisfactions related to the course. For example. These terms were logged onto a table in order to further compare. facial or physical reactions to the question. this study's focus is on factors that lead to dis/satisfaction to the course. .

The years into their college degree vary and they are pursuing different majors as well. Participants Profile In total. c) support system. and d) learner characteristic and learning style. The data were analyzed and categorized by the similarity of the statements. 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.26 Chapter Four: Findings Introduction Most higher education institutions offer courses online in one form or another. six undergraduate students were interviewed. Satisfaction of the learners is one of the indicators of the quality. Each individual's name has been changed for privacy reasons. b) course design. This findings chapter will present the results of the study in the following categories a) course content. The researcher interviewed six different participants and transcribed the interviews. all participants are currently enrolled in the university for their undergraduate degree and have taken this course within the past two years. As a requirement. 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 following table includes some quick facts about each participant. . Hence.

Sasha reflected that she did not enjoy taking the class because she did not see the relevance to her career path. Specifically. Relevance.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. The course has an instructor who offers open labs/ support sessions which provides learners to get one-on-one assistance. Furthermore. relevance to their career or life. Course Content Course content refers to the information or knowledge the online course offers to the student. The course title is “Problem Solving Using Information Technology.” and focuses on educating learners how to use Microsoft Word and Excel with the aid of software. Relevance appeared to be the top concern of the students. All the participants talked a great deal about the content and how the content was not relevant to their study. The irrelevance of the topic did not only . Megan also expressed her concern that most of the course content did not apply to her life in the future.

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

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

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

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. Furthermore. it is difficult to get assistance. . software. The available support system for this online course are the instructor. especially in late hours during the night and while working on assessments (exams). and tools used in the class are very crucial because when problems arise. and then ended up getting the question wrong. Then there should not be only one type of airplane to be accepted as the right solution to the task. there are many ways to fold a paper airplane. The online assessments should be adaptive to different possible ways to solve the problem. if the task is to make a paper airplane. Joe thought that allowing multiple solutions is important because it would allow students to solve problems more intuitively instead of regurgitate what they learned. Support System Support system pertains to the various support the course offers to ensure students' learning. The reliability of the system. the ability to problem solve intuitively and look for alternative solutions is much more important than repeating the same process. he explained that realistically in real life. and technical support from the software company. Adaptability.31 Reliability. For example. open lab/support session offered by the instructor. Sarah always experienced some kind of computer glitches when she was working on her exams and she would not know what to do.

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

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

However. Many participants expressed that they prefer hands-on learning and the online course did not fit their learning style. with her hands. 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. Sarah did not enjoy a previous online course she took. hence she did not like online course. Megan. Learner Perceptions and Perspectives. She said her past experience influenced her motivation and effort studying for the subject. for example. Sophia stated that she much preferred face to face interaction. her perspective changed for the better after taking the course. This was a disadvantage for her because she felt she did not actually learn the material. 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. would prefer to make posters and things she could actually work with.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. However. perception. She felt rather limited at a computer by the online program. their organizational and study skills. Some participants had negative perceptions or perspectives toward online courses before taking the course. hence she came into the course disliking it. 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. Learning Preference. .

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

2004). student achievement and student satisfaction are two ways to assess the quality of an online course. 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. the seven cluster categories found be essential to the success of an online course by Institute of Higher Education were mentioned (Churchill. In Chapter Two.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. 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. This study intends to find detailed reasons for satisfaction and perhaps discover new ground. According to Kim and Bonk (2006).

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

in Lim and Kim's (2003) study. 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. although the delivery method might be limited in online courses. 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. regular communication from the instructor would increase the comfort level of learners seeking help and even though there was a lack of . 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. timely and constructive feedback. 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.38 Teaching/Learning: Student interaction facilitated in a variety of ways. Also. In this study. This would include more learning preference from different individuals. However. As some participants reflected. As stated in Chapter Two. according to the results from this study. they found little influence of the challengeable learning tasks and creative content presentation to learners' motivation. The effectiveness of an instructor was very critical to the satisfaction of the learners in the findings of this study. Menchaca and Bekele's (2008) finding had similar recommendations for having technology tools compatible to multiple learning styles. and instruction in proper research methods. having variability in learning tasks and assessment would make the course more meaningful. This study supports that finding. it is still essential to incorporate as many different ways to introduce information as possible.

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

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

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

It is important to find a good balance and not to be overwhelmed with repetitive data. Only one participant in this study was male. 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. 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. as described before. Therefore. therefore. Educational . the number of the total participants. Recommendations for Future Study During this study. In addition. the time required to transcribe the data should also be taken into consideration. At the same time. it could be the focus study of future research. this study showed the seven categories guidelines from Institute of Higher Education were very inclusive to ensure the quality of online courses. As a conclusion. Further research should include more variety of online courses. it might be a good idea to combine a little quantitative survey with the study in order to answer this question. the researcher only interviewed students who took a specific online course at the university. It was hard to determine from this study's qualitative data because statements cannot be translated into numbers. it might be a good idea to add a prerequisite to balance the number which might allow more interesting comparisons between the two genders. the study could not address other potential factors to students' satisfactions in other online course settings. Hence. the research was unable to determine whether or not there is correlation between students' satisfactions of the course and their learning outcomes. However.42 The question raised on Chapter Two was whether or not there is correlation between participants' satisfactions and their learning outcomes. Therefore. This leads to the last point.

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

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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. If you have any complaints about your treatment as a participant in this study.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. EXPECTED RISKS OF THE STUDY: The interview data will remain confidential and anonymous. Only the researcher has the original data. 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. please call or write: . Any questions about the study will be answered at any time. EXPECTED BENEFITS OF THE STUDY TO THE PARTICIPANT: The participants will gain a better insights about their learning preference and style. 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. DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY INCLUDING PROCEDURES TO BE USED: Participants will be interviewed for one hour.

Provost Carroll College 100 N. I have been told of the risks or discomforts and possible benefits of the study. Joanne Passaro. 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. Participant Signature: Name: __________________________________________ Researcher Signature: Name: __________________________________________ Date: _____________________ Date: _____________________ . The results of this study may be published. Wisconsin 53186 262/524-7267 RESEARCH SUBJECT/PARTICIPANTS’ RIGHTS I have read or have had read to me all of the above. I understand my rights as a research subject/participant. __________________ has explained the study to me and answered all of my questions. I understand what the study is about and how and why it is being done. I will receive a signed copy of this consent form. and I voluntarily consent to participate in this study. I understand that I do not have to take part in this study. I may withdraw from this study at any time without penalty. East Avenue Waukesha. but my records will not be revealed unless required by law.49 Dr.

faculty.50 APPENDIX B Interview Questions • • • • • • • • • • • • • Please describe the online course design which you have taken. How do you see yourself as a learner? Why did you take the course? Please describe your experience taking an online course. 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. etc) motivation self-efficacy .

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