What Makes an Online Course a Good Experience?

Spring semester is under way! Now that you have a few weeks under your belt, the folks in Learning Design are wondering if you would like to weigh in on elements of quality in online courses.

Instructional designer, Penny Ralston-Berg.

Penny Ralston-Berg, an instructional designer with Penn State World Campus Learning Design, works with faculty to design and develop courses for the General Undergraduate Portfolio (GUP) and Labor and Employment Relations online programs. She is the co-author of MindMeld: Micro-Collaboration between eLearning Designers and Instructor Experts.

Penny also coordinated a recent large-scale study built on previous work done at the University of Wisconsin Extension called Online Course Quality: The Student Perspective. This study examined the Quality Matters rubric for quality assurance in online course design and other quality benchmarks. The goal was to gain insight into student perspectives of quality in online courses.

During 2009 and 2010, over 2,300 student responses were collected from 31 institutions in 22 states. In 2011 an additional 750+ responses were received from World Campus students. The information collected has been presented at several national conferences. World Campus data is summarized in a document titled – World Campus Learner Perceptions: Top 30 Elements of Quality in Online Courses.

The top five elements, according to the students’ response, are as follows:

  1.  Clear instructions: how to get started; how to find course components.
  2.  Criteria for how work and participation will be evaluated are descriptive, specific.
  3.  The grading policy is stated clearly.
  4.  Technologies required for the course are provided or easily downloadable.
  5.  Assessments are appropriately timed within the length of the course, varied, and appropriate to the content.

Do you agree with these results? What do you see or experience in these first few weeks that gives you a feeling the course is going to be good? If you were judging or evaluating a course for quality, what would you look for? Please leave your feedback here or e-mail us at WC_Community@outreach.psu.edu.