A comparison study of online course design and pedagogical feature preferences between continuing education students and instructors.

Hu, Charlene Xiaolin, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2009


The study investigated the preferences of instructors and students for design and pedagogy features of online instruction at the post secondary level. Features were identified through a comprehensive literature review combined with focus groups/interviews with instructors and students. Each feature was subjected to review by three subject matter experts to validate the differentiation between design and pedagogy features and to ensure clarification of the language used to describe each feature. Thirty two design features and thirty one pedagogy features were identified. An instrument containing the sixty three items, structured in a Likert scale format, was developed. Respondents were asked to rate their preference on a five-point scale, ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree, for each individual item. Participants included 35 instructors of online courses and 200 students experienced in completing online courses at a Mid-western university. Demographic data on age, gender, online teaching experience, years of Internet experience, faculty rank, and discipline affiliation were collected on instructors. For students, data on age, gender, degree level or professional development enrollment, prior online courses completed, and Internet experience were collected.

An independent-sample T-test was conducted to determine if there was a significant difference between the perceptions of instructors and students on the rating of individual features. Comparisons were made on rank ordering by the two groups across the total set of sixty-three features and within the design features and the pedagogy features based on the T-test results.

A correlation coefficient of .95 was found on the design item rankings between instructors and students. A correlation coefficient of .72 was found on the pedagogy item rankings between instructors and students. However, there was a significant difference, at the .05 level, between the preferences of instructors and students on nineteen individual features. Five of the features on which there was a significant difference were design features and fourteen were pedagogy features. Major findings included the low preferences both instructors and students placed on social interaction features and features that are applicable to accommodations for diverse learners such as students with disabilities.