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Center for Teaching & Learning: Perspectives on Teaching & Learning

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Students’ Online Learning Wish List: Connections and Community

by Reena Lederman Gerard on 2018-07-23T11:53:00-04:00 | 0 Comments

American University authors James Quirk and Melissa Scholes Young collected student evaluations and conducted student interviews to investigate students’ perspectives on the delivery of online courses and the comparability with a face-to-face, or traditional, courses. They  share their findings in their short summary, Lost (and Found) in Translation: What Online Students Want, and their data in the presentation, Online Learning: What the Students Are Saying? Their key point is that knowing what students want, integrated with your expertise, is what should drive the course design and development when shifting from campus-based to online learning. They learned that students want the following course design and development features:

  • Excellent instruction, which includes a range of class work, teaching strategies, and instructional materials (e.g., books, videos, web resources, collaboration tools, options to speed up the videos, transcripts, and shorter lectures—under 40 minutes).
  • Smaller courses with eight – ten students. More than twenty was too much.
  • Some traditional classroom–style features.
    • At least one virtual office hours session (i.e., live chat)
    • Conversations outside of the class environment (e.g. an email that asks how the student is doing—the personal connection)
  • Good video guidance
    • Orientation to the course and time management
    • Weekly introduction to the topic, which makes connections across course
  • And, the most important wish: Social learning and connections across the courses, with the instructor, each other, and the content. This is the foundation of a learning community.

Extra: Watch the authors’ 2016 Ann Ferren Conference on Teaching and Learning panel presentation. What the Students Are Saying.

Thank you to Dr. Quirk for responding to my inquiry. He added a video resource: his perspective as a student in two MOOCs. His experience in these MOOCs shaped his research—it’s about the instructor, the learner, and the learning that transpires rather than the technology.


Quirk, J. & Scholes Young, M. (2016, April 18). Lost (and found) in translation: What online students wants. Retrieved from

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