Bad online instruction how it taught me to be a better online instructor
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Bad Online Instruction, how it taught me to be a better online instructor. Fred Hills Richard Leslie McLennan Community College. Introduction. Background Online courses fastest growing sector on campus Student attrition rates high in online classes (35%+)

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Bad Online Instruction, how it taught me to be a better online instructor

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Bad Online Instruction, how it taught me to be a better online instructor

Fred Hills

Richard Leslie

McLennan Community College


  • Background

    • Online courses fastest growing sector on campus

    • Student attrition rates high in online classes (35%+)

    • Growing interest in student learning outcomes (SLO)

    • Most research focuses on positive, little on the negative factors and their impact on SLOs

  • Why the topic?

    • What are the negative aspects of online instructions

    • What are the differences in faculty and students on these factors

    • What impact do these have on student learning

Quick Survey

  • How many teach online?

  • How many taken online courses?

  • What is your worst online course experience as a student?

  • What is your best online course experience as a student?

  • What impact did either have on your online teaching experience?

Our Study

Action Research using Qualitative Methodology:

  • Typological study of Student Feedback

    • Student feedback on seven semesters of Student Evaluations of Online courses (1060+ comments)

  • Survey of Online Faculty (25% Response)

    • How many courses taken online

    • How many course taught online

    • Negative and positive experiences online

    • Impact on their instruction

  • Panel Discussion with Faculty

    • Experiences from learning and teaching online

    • Impact of negative experiences on online course development

Our Findings

  • 6 major themes emerged

    • Instructor Feedback

    • Course Organization

    • Instruction/Guidance

    • Addressing Learning Styles

    • Interpersonal Communication in the Course

    • Technology

Similarities and Differences in Perspectives on Bad Online Practice

Instructor Feedback“I never got an answer to almost 3/4's of my e-mails. We (all the students) needed more help and the instructor never replied. Need teacher response in a timely fashion, and need teacher response period!”

  • Few or no replies to questions

  • Lack of communications on assignments

  • Little or no feedback on grading

  • Little or no instructor presence in online forums

Course Organization”This class lacked any structure”

  • Confusing or conflicting due dates

    • Where do I start?

    • Calendar?

    • Timeline?

  • Confusing Course Navigation

    • Non functional links

    • Blocked links

    • Wrong links

  • Confusing or no structure

  • Lack of logic in the layout of the course

  • Wrong textbook and/or materials

  • Outdated textbook and/or materials

Instruction/Guidance”…what’s covered in the instruction was not always what was asked in the exams.”

  • Non communicated course expectations

  • Lack of clarity

  • Lack of direction

  • Lack of thoroughness

  • Concerns with testing

    • Testing did not match objectives

    • Too many assessments

    • Timing of assessments

Addressing Learning Styles“…course needs different types or styles of activities”

  • Correspondence course – did not engage different learning styles

  • Tried to force Teacher Centric in a Learner Centric environment

  • Passive text based course – only mode of delivery

  • Limited or no use of video/voice medias

  • Lack of variety in course work/projects/assignments

Interpersonal Communication in the Course“…need a more approachable instructor, with logical explanations that are NOT intent to make the student feel dumb or like a screw up.”

  • Student did not connect with the class

  • Incorrect or misunderstood tone

  • Mismatched teams/groups

  • No discussion forums or student ties

  • Rude communication

    “…the instructor showed 'disdain' by the wording of replies to e-mails. If I e-mail someone - I am going to take a few seconds extra to be courteous online”

Technology“I tried to access the presentations from three different computers and was unable to get them to play”

  • Inaccessible technology

  • Skill level required to high for student

  • CMS failings/limitations

  • Non functional Chats/Discussion Boards/Tools

  • Multimedia for multimedia sake

Impact on Students

  • Student overwhelmed or underwhelmed

    • Student gives up and drops out

    • Student fails to engage the material

    • Student loses interest in the topic

    • Student loses interest in education

Impact on Instruction“The online course I took completely informed me on the creation of my first online course”

  • Integrate feedback loops

  • Establish expectations on communications

    • Frequency

    • Means

    • Response time

  • Ensure quick feedback and turn around on assignments and grading

  • Give step-by-step instructions for assignments

  • Provide examples or models of the finished assignments

  • Keep courses up-to-date

  • Ensure consistency and ease of navigation

Impact on Instruction“My goal is to make my courses better than the ones I took”

  • Provide student the flexibility and access to work ahead

  • Include variety of learning techniques

  • Embed extra point opportunities in the notes and reading assignments.

  • Put effort into designinglearning around student learning styles

  • Use collaborative assignments

  • Take into consideration those who use dial up

  • Focus on pedagogy before technology

    • Use newest inventions only if they contribute to learning

    • Deploy media appropriately in the course – in support of learning objectives


  • Seek student feedback throughout the course and adjust accordingly

  • Recognize technology is a means and not an end

  • Better select and prepare instructors for online teaching

  • Provide online experience to online instructors

  • Do not “rest on your laurels”: regularly reassess your own delivery

  • NEXT STEP: Quantify impact of negative factors on student retention

Contact Information

Fred Hills

Program Director

CIS & Multimedia

[email protected]

Richard Leslie

Instructional Designer

Center for Instructional Design

[email protected]

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