A critique of the length of online course and student satisfaction, perceived learning, and academic performance. Natasha Lindsey

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1 Running head: LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 1 A critique of the length of online course and student satisfaction, perceived learning, and academic performance Natasha Lindsey University of Alabama

2 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 2 Introduction As online courses continue to expand in the educational environment, many postsecondary institutions are now including online learning as part of their long-term strategy. One trend associated with this strategy is the opportunity for fast track certifications in education through the offering of condensed five-week online courses during the summer semesters (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). Previous research associated with student satisfaction and course delivery has been reviewed using the degree of structure within a course, positive perceptions towards technology, completion time suitable to personal circumstances, course design, student interaction with the instructor and students, and level of collaborative activities offered in a web-based learning environment (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). Many studies associated with distance education have focused on comparing academic performance and effectiveness in an asynchronous and traditional classroom environment. The investigators of this research were unable to find research which compared student satisfaction in a full-term online course to that of an intensive five-week online course (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). Using the premises of the equivalency theory this study examined whether there were differences in student satisfaction, perceived learning, and performance when course content and teaching pedagogy remain consistent in courses which were only different in the length: one course composed of five-week intensive activities with the other lasting a full fifteen weeks (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). Intended Audience The intended audience for this article includes administrators, technical support and faculty members of any postsecondary institution within any field who are interested in adopting,

3 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 3 implementing or teaching five-week intensive asynchronous graduate courses. Article Topics Online learning, asynchronous formats, course satisfaction, communication, academic performance, massed and distributed learning as well as the equivalency theory composes the major topics associated with this article. Diagram Problem Statement Since the existing research has focused on intensive versus semester length courses in the traditional classroom setting, the first part of this study compares the shortened and full-length course formats based on student satisfaction with course interaction and the intention to participate in online courses in the future. The second part of the study compares academic performance in both settings (Ferguson & DeFelice, 2010). Research Questions For the purpose of this study, Ferguson and DeFelice (2010) used four research questions which were as follows: 1. Is there a difference in students satisfaction with communication between a fiveweek online course and a full-semester online course? 2. Will students in a five-week online course be more or less likely than students in a full-semester online course to take another online course? 3. Is there a difference in students perceived learning between a five-week online course and a full-semester online course?

4 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 4 4. Do graduate students enrolled in a five-week online course show similar student learning when compared to graduate students in a full-semester online course, as demonstrated by academic performance? (p.5) In addition, four hypotheses developed by Ferguson and DeFelice (2010) were used and are as follows: 1. Students in an intensive five-week online course will have a different satisfaction with course communication and interaction than students in a full-semester online course. 2. Students in an intensive five-week online course will have different satisfaction levels than students in a full-semester online course, as indicated by their intention to take online courses in the future. 3. Students perceived learning will be different in the intensive five-week online course than in the full-semester course. 4. There will be differences in students academic performance levels in the intensive five-week online course versus the full-semester course. (p. 6) Methodology The research was conducted at a medium-sized, liberal arts university using graduate students enrolled in a one year master s degree program. Seventy-five students completed a 15 question Likert scale survey over a period of four consecutive semesters. One course was taught during a five-week intensive online session while the other three courses were taught during the full fifteen-week term. To ensure equivalency, one professor taught all four courses using the same pedagogical approach, course requirements and teaching strategy within the course format.

5 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 5 The survey instrument used a four point scale which eliminated a neutral option. The scale rating ranged from 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (disagree), 3 (agree) and 4 (strongly agree). The authors used Cronbach s alpha to determine the reliability of the survey instrument to be.77 which is an acceptable degree of internal consistence (Ferguson and DeFelice, 2010). The second part of the research included the review of final grades from 114 students during three summer sessions and four full-semester sessions. To determine whether there were significant differences in student satisfaction with communication and interaction between the courses lengths a t test was used. Findings The findings showed no significant differences between the full-semester students and the intensive five-week students in terms of their intent to take additional online courses. While perceived learning was higher overall in the full-semester courses the differences were not significant. There were however, two differences found involving satisfaction with communication. Students in the intensive course were more satisfied with student to student interactions while students in the full-semester courses were more satisfied with instructor to student communications. This finding was aligned with hypothesis one. There were no significant differences found in students desire to take future online courses or perceived learning as such both hypotheses two are three were not supported. Since significant differences were found in associated with academic performance, hypothesis four was also supported. The significant difference associated with the students lower level of satisfaction with communication by the professor in a five-week course might be explained by the heavy burden and overwhelming nature of student s and questions received in such a short period of time.

6 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 6 The significant differences found in academic performance which showed higher performance in the intensified course could be explained by the students need for focus and to be on task continuously. Conclusions The research found within this article is groundbreaking and the first of its kind to explore how different formats influence student attitudes and academic performance. It also provides useful findings with implications for teaching in both formats. Effective communication among students and instructors is vital to online success. Instructors should offer a variety of methods for online communication, especially in short, intensified courses. Instructors should shift their teaching strategy for the intensified courses to emphasize interaction with students. This research also has the potential to bring about new institutional policies in determining the length of online courses. Article Review From reviewing this article, one could believe the conclusions are warranted and agree with the information provided. The study took place over a period of time and provided verifiable results to emphasize the findings stated. From the statistical analysis available one can clearly see that students in the intensive five-week course showed higher satisfaction with student to student communication than students in the full-semester courses as indicated: (t=4.09, p=.026). The authors did an excellent job of providing readable tables to emphasize their findings for all points of study. The article appeared to be well researched and written and as such, it is difficult for one to find any possible unstated beliefs or assumptions related to this subject matter. The authors

7 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 7 clearly stated limitations associated with the study and offered suggestions for future research to assist in clarifying any of these limitations. Since this research is the first of its kind, it offers many avenues for additional research. One such area for further consideration is the type of student who enrolls in intensive online courses. Research might be conducted to evaluate the demographics, personality characteristics and general expectations associated with these students. Other avenues for research would include ensuring familiarity with the technology for all students through workshops prior to participating in the study and then increasing the sample size to repeat the study identified within this article. Another study which could be of interest looks at class size and how this affects student satisfaction, perceived learning and actual academic performance. Potential research could include reviewing the students level of participation in the various communication options and level of satisfaction with their connection to the professor and other students. One final area for consideration might include comparing retention of learning between the intensive-semester and full-semester students.

8 LENGTH OF ONLINE COURSE STUDENT SATISFACTION 8 References Ferguson, J.M., DeFelice, A.F. (2010, May). Length of online course and student satisfaction, perceived learning, and academic performance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. 11 (2) Retrieved from

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