Online Learning Experiences, Dissertation – Results Example
Words: 2301Dissertation - Results
The survey was completed using pre-written interview questions, and analyzed according to relevant guidelines. The findings of the qualitative survey will be represented below, for the two separate phases of interview data. Phase one of the survey focused on the perception of 12 online learning students regarding the tools’ usability and effectiveness. In Phase 2, the author clarified and narrowed the questions, and reduced the number of participants to eight. The qualitative data was analyzed, and the results are presented below in a descriptive format. In Phase 1, the researcher used 10 questions, while in Phase 2, only five of the most relevant questions were presented to participants in order to gain a focused result that is closely related to the current research questions. The main reason why the qualitative research was completed in two phases is that this way, the author could focus on the target population more, based on the analysis of the first interview questions’ answers.
Phase One Interview Questions
Interview Question 1 asked: “What were your general thoughts about online learning prior to enrolling in your online course(s)?” This question was closely related to the initial perception of online learners about the facilities, ease of access, and their expectations. The question was related to the research question: “What factors contribute to high dropout rates and unsuccessful completion of online courses for adult learners enrolled in online higher education courses?”. Unrealistic expectations about the courses, time taken to complete, and the materials is likely to be a contributor factor of high dropout rates. Therefore, the survey’s results were necessary to be analyzed in the light of student success and final assessment of the course. Some important themes emerged regarding students’ initial perceptions, such as: misconceptions about the ease of learning material and course, and the lack of knowledge. Only one participant said that they had their expectations matched by the course. Some of the respondents said they expected courses to be less challenging, while others stated that they were not sure what to expect. This means that information available about online courses before one starts them is an important aspect of success.
Interview Question 2 asked participants about the experiences of online learners: “What do/did you enjoy about your online learning experience/class?”. This question was not closely related to research question 1: “What do/did you enjoy about your online learning experience/class?”, however, indicated why some online students would have negative experiences, and how the courses could be improved to reduce dropout rates. The general theme identified based on the analysis of the answers was that flexibility of the courses and completing classes was one of the most enjoyable features of online learning. At the same time, communication with classmates and professors was identified as a supportive feature of online classes. Interaction, therefore, was found to be important for those taking online classes, as well as flexibility.
Interview Question 3 asked: “What do/did you dislike about your online learning experience/class?”. This question was also closely related to research question 1, described above. The main reasons why people would drop out from school would be that they will not receive adequate support, or not understand the requirements before enrolling, as the researcher initially assumed. The answers of participants confirmed the above assumptions, and many students taking part in the survey stated that they missed the classroom environment. This indicates that in order to reduce dropout rates, online course providers should work on re-creating classroom environment online, using virtual collaboration tools. Students reported that more interaction with professors and classmates would have made them more successful, and this theme should be considered in the future, when attempting to improve online courses and reducing dropout rates. One participant stated that they found the instructors unorganized, and the system hard to follow.
Interview Question 4 asked participants “By taking an online course, do you think that it had an effect on your time management during the term? If so, explain your response”. The question was related to research questions 2 and 3: “What are some defining characteristics of successful online adult learners? What are some defining characteristics of unsuccessful online adult learners?”. Time management is likely to be one of the success factors of completing online courses. As learners have increased flexibility, online in campus-based education, they are responsible for scheduling learning time, keeping record of deadlines, and managing their learning activities. The researcher initially assumed that online learning can positively impact students’ independence and time management skills. The above assumption was confirmed by the majority of participants, and one respondent clearly stated that “it has made me better at time management”. Out of the 12 participants, only three said that their online learning experience did not impact their time management skills.
Interview Question 5 asked “What factors you believe contributed most to your success (passing) or failure in your online course?”. Focusing on the same research questions (2 and 3) as the previous question, the researcher used the pre-written interview question to define what makes online learners successful or unsuccessful. The main themes identified based on the answers were the importance of motivation, support, and time management. While two participants stated that success or failure mainly depended on their skills and attitude, the rest of the respondents indicated that interest, motivation, and support received had an impact on their success.
Interview Question 6, focusing on the failure rate of the 12 selected participants, asking: “ave you ever been unsuccessful (failed) in an online course? If so, can you explain the reason why you did not successfully complete the course?”. Related to the same research questions (2 and 3), the researcher intended to focus on the factors of online learning that most contribute towards drop-out and failure. Eight out of the 12 respondents said that they never failed at an online course, while four indicated having some kind of difficulties completing assignments, achieving high grades on tests, or understanding the requirements. Respondent OAL8 stated that she did not fully grasp the importance of the course, and the reason for her failure was her lack of motivation and focus.
Interview Question 7 was focusing on the perception of online courses after enrollment or completion. The question asked: “If you had the chance to tell someone else in your age group that was thinking about taking an online course, what would you feel would be important for them to know?” The interview question was also closely related to Research Questions 2 and 3, and provided a comparison basis regarding interview question 1, assessing the initial perceptions of participants about online education, before enrollment. The importance of this question is to reveal how the initial assumptions compare with students’ experiences. One interesting emerging theme was identified, based on the assessment of answers: motivation. Students who have already enrolled to online learning said that being interested in the topic, and motivating one’s self can help completing the assignments and the tests. Time management was also found to be important for success, according to current or previous students.
Interview Question 8 asked: “Were you aware of any resources or support services at the local university in this study that would have assisted you to know what you needed to take an online class?”. This question was related to Research Question 1: “What factors contribute to high dropout rates and unsuccessful completion of online courses for adult learners enrolled in online higher education courses?“The researcher assumed that support provided to students would have a positive impact on completion rate. Indeed, the findings indicated that those students who were not aware of the orientation and support tools available on the website when enrolling to the course were more likely to fail at one point. Students who stated that they were aware of the tools and utilized them did not fail at tests or assessments.
Interview Question 9 asked about students’ motivation to take the classes: “What motivated you to take an online course(s)?”. This question was related to Research Question 1, as it indicated how seriously students took the course initially. The main assumption of the researcher, that high motivation rate increases students’ success rate was confirmed by the analysis of the answers. Those who had a strong purpose, such as career progression, or self-development (OAL 9 and OAL 11) did not fail, while those who chose online learning as a more comfortable option over campus-based education were more likely to fail.
Interview Question 10, the final one focused on skills that are presumed to be necessary to complete online courses successfully. The question asked: “What skills (academic and technical) do you believe online learners need to have to be successful in an online classroom?”. This question was related to research questions 2 and 3, and the most commonly mentioned skill was found to be computer skills, followed by comprehension and motivation. This means that it is likely that by providing basic internet, Office program, and other software training for students enrolling to the courses, before beginning the education would successfully reduce dropout rates, while improving students’ learning experiences at Troy.
Phase Two Interview Questions
In Phase 2, the researcher focused on the most relevant interview questions, and the most representative participants. The sample was reduced to 8, and the number of questions to 5. Two of the interview questions were related to Research Question One: “What factors contribute to high dropout rates and unsuccessful completion of online courses for adult learners enrolled in online higher education courses?”, and three related to Research Question 2 and 3: “What are some defining characteristics of successful online adult learners? What are some defining characteristics of unsuccessful online adult learners?”.
Interview Question 1 asked participants to “Describe your opinion about online learning prior to enrolling in online course(s)?”. This question was related to Research Question One, as initial perceptions of online education are likely to determine the success rate. Relevant knowledge about the requirements is setting the right expectations, while misinformation can lead to disappointment, and ultimately failure. Out of the 8 participants, two stated that they found it the only alternative to continue education. Two participants stated they had misconceptions, and one said that they believed that online education was inferior to campus-based training (OAL1). It is important to note that participants who had initial misconceptions about online learning, such as “less time consuming than traditional classes” (OAL4) and inferior (OAL1) were more likely to struggle or fail with assignments.
Interview Question 2 was asking: “What factors contribute most to your success (passing) in an online course?”. This question was closely related to research questions 2 and 3: the determinants of success and failure. Out of the eight participants, three four mentioned time management and scheduling, therefore, this can be identified as a major success factor. Other respondents put emphasis on hard work and planning ahead. Two respondents (OAL1 and OAL 6) stated that drive and motivation was the main determinant of success.
Interview Question 3 was worded as follows: “Have you ever failed an online course? If so, what were the contributing factors?”. This question was found to be extremely relevant to Research Question 1, related to high dropout rates. Success was assumed to be a main motivator for students to continue with learning online, while naturally failure or struggling with assignments would discourage individuals. Out of the eight interviewees, one reported failing at an assessment, as they did not fully understand the requirements. Two other participants stated that they struggled with particular assessments, for different reasons. OAL 8 stated the main reason as being “burned out”, which can be translated to the lack of motivation. The answer indicates that how interesting and encouraging the course material is determines success rate, therefore, online education courses need to focus on not only the quality of resources, but also the communication and presentation of the subject as well. OAL1 participant said that they struggled with some particular assignments, as they were struggling and could not cope without personal instruction. The above answer indicates that providing support for students can increase success rate. Delivering the learning materials online is not enough: checking the understanding of students about the subject is also important.
Interview Question 4 asked participants: “Which skills (academic and technical) are important for successful online learning?”, attempting to answer research questions 2 and 3. Out of the 8 participants, four mentioned computer skills as a main success factor. As it has been confirmed by the results of the Phase 1 survey, it is likely that online colleges and universities that provide initial technical training courses focusing on the software and communication tools to be used in the online classroom and Blackboard are likely to have better learning outcomes, higher rate of student satisfaction, and lower dropout rates. Two participants mentioned time management, while two other interviewees highlighted the importance of academic and comprehension skills. The above answers also show that online campuses could increase student satisfaction and retention rates by providing orientation and learning skills courses, outside of the curriculum, available for all students who feel like they need them.
Interview Question 5, the last one within Phase 2 asked: “What are some defining characteristics of successful online adult learners? What are some defining characteristics of unsuccessful online adult learners?”. The interview question was related to Research Question 2 and 3. Four participants clearly stated that laziness (lack of motivation) was responsible for failure. This means that the above respondents looked at online learning as an opportunity available for everyone, and allowing people to make their own choices. The main emerging theme, therefore, is personal qualities related to success. Three participants noted poor time management and planning skills, and two blamed failure on the lack of written communication skills. The above answers indicate that there is a need for online education to be encouraging and motivating, while providing students with the necessary writing and learning skills to reduce dropout rates.
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