A review on some of the success factors of online courses
A study conducted by Kirtman revealed survey responses from online learners that “were so overwhelmingly positive that the issue of students satisfaction cannot be ignored” (2009, p. 113). Not only are environmental factors such as course structure important to analyze, but it is important to examine intrinsic motivational factors as components for a successful online course and experience for the learner. Self-regulation and motivation have been identified as two critical factors for determining success in online courses (Matuga, 2009). Self-regulation can be defined as the “ability of students to plan, monitor, and evaluate their own behavior, cognition and learning strategies” (Matuga, 2009, p. 5). Self-regulation alone is not enough for success, students must be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to use self-regulatory strategies effectively in order to succeed in the academic realm of online courses (Matuga, 2009). As noted, self-regulation is a key component to success in online courses. Therefore, non-self-regulated students tended to demonstrate academic procrastination, increased disorganization, and used less cognitive and metacognitive strategies to accomplish their learning goals (You & Kang, 2014).
Online course construction is as diverse as traditional classroom settings. Developing and teaching an online course that benefits students and yields positive learning outcomes is a complex undertaking. Attempting to recreate the traditional classroom in an online setting may not necessarily be the wisest course of action. Thomson advises course creators “to capitalize on the benefits that the online environment can offer” and “to minimize the challenges specific to the environment” (Thomson, 2010, p. 703). Courses should be well organized from the very start, providing the students with detailed instructions and expectations. Instructors should anticipate areas of potential misunderstanding and dismiss unclear directives prior to the start of the course. Misunderstandings can be minimized through a very detailed syllabus, course calendar, useful links, and course information that is chunked into digestible pieces (Thomson, 2010).
Communication is notably one of the most crucial elements to an effective online course. Lehmann states “communication is what separates true online learning from Web-based tutorials” (2004, p. 9). Interaction and communication have been identified as key factors in the success of an online course, leading to enhanced student satisfaction and motivation. Interaction can take place in three central areas, interaction between the learner and the instructor, the learner and other learners, and the learner and the content (Savenye, 2005). Interaction between the learner and the content is the most common type of interaction that occurs in online settings, through lectures and readings. Online instructors can orchestrate the class environment to increase the interaction between the learner and the instructor and the learner and other learners through both synchronous and asynchronous interactions. There are a multitude of options for students to work collaboratively and cooperatively with other learners and/or the instructor in live debates, reflective journal entries, peer reviews, discussion boards, and video or audio teleconferencing (Savenye, 2005).