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Posted on May 2nd, 2014, by

Problem statement: How can we increase Universities’ Online student satisfaction?

Brainstorm a list of ideas select three ideas and create a plan for implementing the ideas.

Online learning is becoming widely popular, and a growing number of students choose online learning instead of traditional learning. Online learning has a large number of advantages: 24/7 accessibility of learning materials, greater flexibility of learning sessions, possibility to review the material many times, opportunity to study in home comfort, the choice of own pace of learning, etc. At the same time, online learning also presents a number of new challenges to the students, such as lack of computer literacy to use course technologies, unwillingness of students to participate in group work, challenges in communication, lack of detailed instructor feedback, differences in learning styles, and student feelings of isolation from the community.

The first step of the analysis before brainstorming session was to identify the factors influencing student satisfaction. According to the research of Ferguson and DeFelice (2010), student satisfaction was significantly related to their satisfaction with communications with their instructor, and communication/collaboration with other students. Other factors affecting student satisfaction are students’ confidence about their ability to learn and communicate online, clear understanding of course schedule and requirements and students’ performance in online learning (Palmer & Holt, 2009).

The second step was to determine key problems that might affect student satisfaction in online learning. The following problems were mentioned. In online courses, a certain part of the students tend to spend less time than course requirements suggest on learning, and exhibit poorer results. Research evidence suggests that students with visual and auditory learning styles do benefit from online learning, while the performance of kinesthetic learners might suffer (Palmer & Holt, 2009).

The ideas during a brainstorming session regarding the improvement of Universities’ Online student satisfaction were generated basing on two steps described above. The following ideas were generated: help students with different learning styles select optimal learning path, increase focus on student-teacher interaction and timeliness of responses, encourage group work and team work using appropriate assignments, set a minimal level of student group participation, address inequalities in students’ computer literacy, identify free-riders (people who do not participate in discussions and do not collaborate, but use the results of group work) and penalize such behaviors, and clearly outline student goals and achievements along with schedule (which is important for students who tend to spend little time on online learning in the beginning of the course, hoping that they will catch up with the others later).

Three ideas were selected: help students with different learning styles select optimal learning path, address inequalities in students’ computer literacy, and increase focus on student-teacher interaction and timeliness of responses. First idea was chosen because the needs of learners with different styles are rarely accounted for, and this idea is highly likely to increase student satisfaction. Second and third idea were chosen because they are directly related to the factors affecting student satisfaction with online learning.

Implementation plan for the idea help students with different learning styles select optimal learning path is the following: students should administer a learning styles inventory in the beginning of the online class (or online education); short video on learning styles and their differences should be added to introductory course, so that students would be aware of their learning needs; homework assignments for every kind of learners should be necessarily included in online courses: audio lectures and recordings of live lectures for auditory learners, powerpoint slides, charts, logs for assignments, written notes and directions for visual learners, and online labs along with hands-on teaching rooms for kinesthetic learners (assignments might include reproducing the experiment at home or working in online laboratory environment).

Implementation plan for the idea address inequalities in students’ computer literacy is the following: conduct a survey of student’s computer literacy before the start of the course, upload easy how-to videos explaining all manipulations with course content and software required for the students, arranging a software consultant for students who would be available to help with technical questions, and encouraging student collaboration to help the ones who are struggling because of computer literacy.

Finally, the implementation plan for the idea increase focus on student-teacher interaction and timeliness of responses is the following: set a maximum of 24 hours for instructor reply for online courses, add at least two assistants for each course who would help with students e-mails and questions, arrange weekly live counseling sessions, assign students to groups randomly (in order to foster collaboration), require team contracts (written group responsibilities and learning requirements), and develop a mechanism of evaluating team member participation by other team members (in order to avoid free-riders). Implementation of these three ideas will help to increase Universities’ Online student satisfaction and improve their learning performance.

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