At the end of the Spring 2015 semester, I sent my students a link to an optional online survey using SurveyMonkey.com. I wanted to find out more about what my students needed to help them learn and stay connected in the classroom.
The survey was a short, six question survey.
- How many online classes have you taken?
- What is your favorite aspect of taking a class online?
- What is your least favorite aspect of taking a class online?
- Would you rather a) have an online text with extra resources but pay more, b) have a physical textbook, or c) have the option to purchase an older version of the text, knowing that some of the information will have changed?
- Which of the following, if any, do you think would help you be more successful in your online courses: text message reminders when assignments are due, getting a card in the mail with encouragement, a “meet the teacher’ event at the beginning of the semester, a webinar with instructions for the class, or social media (facebook group, etc)?
- Which of the following would you like to see more of within the online classroom: video instruction from my professor, sample assignments, videos not from my professor, printable notes, student interaction, other?
43 students responded to the survey. Over 60% of students responding had taken two or more online courses, telling me that a) they like online courses or they are relying on online course for their education and b) they probably have had time to think about what they need to succeed in their classes.
For most students, the reasons they like online courses were very similar. Many of them had jobs or small children and needed the flexibility. Others had illnesses or issues like ADHD that made the online learning style more conducive to learning for them. And others just liked being able to stay home.
Reasons students didn’t like the online courses varied much more widely, with student responses varying from technical issues to forgetting due dates to being unable to ask questions as easily to missing face to face interaction with teacher and students. Really, there were no surprises here, either.
The results were split down the middle when asked whether students prefer a paper text to an online one. Most comments centered on pricing, but a few referenced difficulty comprehending an online text. Personally, I think we will find more of this as digital texts become more popular. While they can be much more convenient, being able to touch a physical page gives the mind reference points for memory that I think are helpful for students.
The most interesting question for me was #5. About 60% of students wished they could get a text message with assignment due date reminders. 55% asked for a webinar. 45% wanted a meet and greet with the professor. 22% would like some sort of social media presence. And about 15% thought a card in the mail would be nice. I’m currently thinking about how I can implement all of these methods into future courses. (I’d love your thoughts!) Interestingly, several students asked for more videos in their comments for this question!
In fact, over 50% of students said they would like more video instruction directly from their professor in their responses to question six. Similarly, 50% would like printable notes. 60% of students want more sample assignments. Less than 20% of students thought they’d like more student interaction, and only 11% wanted videos not from the instructor!
To really get a better idea of how to implement what I learned from these surveys, I need to separate out the responses of first time online students from more veteran online students. Those who have taken more than MY class will have a broader understanding of how the online classroom looks and what they need or don’t need to facilitate their learning.
All in all, I hope that you find this information interesting and informative, especially if you are teaching in an online classroom!