STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF ONLINE LEARNING AND INSTRUCTIONAL TOOLS: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS USE OF ONLINE TOOLS
The purpose of this study was to describe undergraduate students' experiences and perceptions of online courses based on interviews, observations, and online focus groups. I describe (a) motivational and learner characteristics within online classes, (b) the positive and negative aspects of online courses as experienced by students, (c) what instructors can do to improve the teaching of online courses, and (d) how undergraduate students’ perceptions of the online learning environment and the tools used affects the selection of their approach to learning.
Data analysis from this study produced five primary findings across the four research questions. The first finding is the role of communication in shaping students’ perceptions and approach to learning. The second finding is that participants did not perceive the negative attributes of technology to be inherent to the technology itself but in its use and implementations. Included in this second finding is that the tools used were not as important as the quality of communication and that the value assigned by students to any tool is influenced by the way the tool is implemented. The third is that course organization is key to student learning and success. The fourth is that student’ approaches to learning appeared to be shaped by both the structure of the learning environment and the nature of assessments used in the online environment. Included in this fourth finding is students’ perceptions of online learning as being less academically rigorous than their experiences in face–to–face education. The fifth is that students use nonacademic resources to locate information rather than the university library.
Presentation will consist of a summary of students’ perceptions and an overview of methodology, including the movement from face-to-face focus groups to an online model and the use of think-aloud observations and interviews in collecting data on online student learning.