In 2017/18, over 26% of Chemeketa’s enrollments consisted of online classes. Students are the most important part of the work we do, and because of the significant number of students taking online classes, it’s vital to create opportunities to connect with them in a variety of ways about their experiences taking online classes at Chemeketa.

On February 22, 2019, Chemeketa Online sponsored a student forum asking them to to be candid with us about their issues and concerns.

Here is what students had to say about their experiences taking online classes:

“I can access online classes at my leisure, and in some cases complete my assignments early. I like the flexibility and the ability to work at my own pace.”

“Everything was laid out for me when I took online classes. Instructor expectations were clear. All of my classmates were very helpful. I felt free to ask questions.”

“I can maximize my time by taking a mix of online and face-to-face courses. I live 45 minutes away. I only drive in 2-3 days per week instead of every day.”

“Take online classes – it’s fun, it’s simple, it’s easy!”

Students love the ease and convenience of taking classes online. Of those students taking online classes, over 63% took both online and campus-based classes. Online classes make it possible for them to have a full-time job, spend time with family, have personal time, and go to school. They welcome the option to work at their own pace.

The Online Student Forum included Chemeketa Online staff and faculty from a variety of disciplines leading table discussions with topics ranging from course design, course interaction, student resources, and some more general areas of discussion. Each topic focused on questions that yielded a wealth of information to help us better understand student needs and concerns.

A varied cross-section of student experiences were represented at the forum. Some were taking online only while others were taking both online and face-to-face courses. Other students had taken online courses from other institutions.

A comprehensive review of their responses revealed some areas of concern that virtually all the students had in common.

Course Navigation

A major ongoing concern for students centers around the challenges they experience when navigating some of their online courses. The variability of navigation and content layout from one class to the next requires them to spend a lot of time in each class trying to find the information needed to clearly understand the expectations for the class. Assignments and due dates are often buried and not always clearly defined. Some students suggested that it would be helpful for each class to have an introduction or mini-tutorial covering the specifics of navigating that particular class.

They all agreed that consistent navigation/layout from one class to the next would have a significant and positive impact on their success.

Most students are juggling several classes each term. In order to assist them with schedule planning, they value flexibility with assignment due dates and when course content is released.

Instructor Interaction

Students appreciate receiving reminders about upcoming deadlines for assignments and exams, especially if the reminders are viewable on the homepage.

An area of concern for all of the students is related to instructor interaction. It is important to receive timely and personalized feedback on assignments so they can use it to improve work on future assignments. Students value increased instructor involvement in activities such as Discussions. Clearly defined roles and expectations for course communication and discussions are a priority for online students.

Several students talked about the significance of establishing a connection with their instructors and classmates, most importantly, at the beginning of the term. They suggested connecting virtually as an option. They understood that online classes are generally asynchronous, and indicated they would be happy to view recordings on their own schedules. More virtual engagement with their instructor and classmates throughout the term would give students the opportunity to get to know each other and their instructors a little better and make valuable connections.

Course Materials

Students indicated that textbooks are essential for any class. Most voiced concerns about being required to pay for eTextbooks as part of other 3rd party publisher content and being unable to access their eTextbook content after the term was over. Although they are aware that hard copies of many textbook are available at low cost, they don’t think they should be required to pay for the same textbook twice.

Students find the syllabi in some of their courses to be overly dense and text-heavy. They suggested that breaking up information throughout the syllabus might make it easier to locate specific information for assignments and assessments.

Others have challenges with their exams. In some cases, they have only two attempts to complete an exam. In situations where there were issues with technology such as wifi connections, they are unable to finish the exam without needing to contact their instructor to request a reset. If the instructor is unavailable they could potentially miss the deadline.

There was a common concern about being unable to go back and review all the questions along with their responses before submitting a quiz or exam. Students think it would be helpful for their learning experience to have the opportunity to revisit their answers after the exam. This would allow them to learn from the questions they missed and carry this knowledge forward throughout the course.

Most students juggle several classes each term. Consistent use of the course calendar for assignments and assessments is considered a great way to help students stay organized for each of their classes. They suggested that access to syllabi during registration is helpful when planning their schedules.

Several students indicated how much they appreciate the opportunity to access their entire class, including all lessons, assignments and due dates at the start of the term.

Instructor Takeaways

To hear more about the Online Student Survey from the perspective of faculty who attended and facilitated, tune in to the HubTalk Podcast and listen to what Jill Rupert and Matt Davies have to say.

Feel free to follow-up with the TechHub faculty for suggestions and assistance. We’re always happy to help.

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