National statistics indicate that last year nearly one in six college students enrolled in an online class in the fall semester. During that time, a University of Houston-Victoria professor and staff member teamed up to conduct a survey of UHV’s online students. The results of their study were published in the summer issue of The Internet and Higher Education.
Andria Young, associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development, and Chari Norgard, senior director in the Office of Student and Academic Services, began their study by developing a survey to explore student satisfaction with online learning experiences. Their questions focused on areas found to be important to students, such as class flexibility, quality of instruction and interaction between cyber-classmates.
Roughly 25 percent of the 913 students enrolled in UHV’s online classes last fall responded. Overall, the students found their experiences to be positive. Course content, interaction with instructors, and interaction with other students were all rated favorably by the majority of respondents. Students also indicated that the course offerings might benefit from extended technical support hours and a more consistent structure from one class to another.
Young and Norgard’s study, first delivered as a paper at the spring 2006 Texas Computer Education Association conference, generated much interest and discussion among conference attendees who encouraged Young and Norgard to publish their findings. Shortly thereafter, The Internet and Higher Education picked up their article.
Devoted to addressing contemporary issues and future developments related to online learning, teaching, and administration in postsecondary settings, the peer-reviewed journal is published quarterly and is international and interdisciplinary.
Many critics of online courses raise concerns as to whether or not such classes can truly replicate the give-and-take of a traditional classroom discussion. However, a recent survey found that 50 percent of those expecting to enroll in a higher education program said they would prefer to take at least some of their courses online—suggesting the question is not whether or not to offer online courses but how to maximize their effectiveness.
“Research such as the survey conducted by Young and Norgard is invaluable in developing the future of online education, a tool that has allowed countless students to pursue higher education who otherwise wouldn’t,” said UHV President Tim Hudson. “Their work is a testament to the ways UHV not only participates in cutting-edge course delivery, but also helps to shape it.”
At UHV, online class registration has steadily grown since first being offered in 1997. Last year, more than a third of UHV students enrolled in at least one such course. With the development of programs such as the international MBA offered to students in Mexico and elsewhere, online courses are becoming the only kind of classes some students will take.
The pair enjoyed the project and have discussed future collaborations focusing on areas including faculty perceptions and trying to determine learning differences between students who enjoy online classes and students who do not. Noting that online classes are still a relatively new phenomenon, Young said, “I believe there is a whole new frontier available to be researched in regard to online course delivery.”
The Internet and Higher Education is published by Elsevier. For more information, visit www.elsevier.com.