In Fall 2012, I developed my online course for Principles of Microeconomics. It seemed pretty straightforward at the time – work with an instructional designer, complete the required assignments in the course for faculty, and have the course ready to go by January of 2013.
Though the development phase was enjoyable, it took time and was not necessarily an easy task. I knew that by Spring 2013, I would be ready to go with my course and the real fun (since I enjoy teaching) would begin. Now that the semester is over, I can say that teaching my first online course was a lot of fun, I felt connected to students, they seemed engaged and all seemed well. But it’s only when the semester is over – when the grades are posted and the student evaluations are available – that we have data about the course.
Today was the day. In my email inbox was the “your course evaluations are now available” message. And the questions in my mind are these: Did I connect with my students? Were they engaged? What were their opinions about the online course?
I already knew some things about the course from the data I had:
- 63 students started the course, and 54 completed the course.
- Of the 9 students who dropped, 4 did so before the first exam. (Early drops are often due to readjusted schedules, though there can be other reasons.)
- Five more students dropped the course sometime before the final exam, which is pretty consistent with my previous face-to-face courses.
- The class average for homework completion was 75 percent. (Students can miss some assignments.)
- 33 students participated in online experiments, and many did all three experiments.
- The end-of-course grades:
- A – 19 percent
- B – 20 percent
- C – 39 percent
- D – 13 percent
- F – 9 percent (and one incomplete)
What I inferred from the data I had was that the students seemed engaged, and the class results looked very similar to that of my face-to-face courses. Today I got a chance to look at my course evaluation results and hear directly from the students. So here is what I found out:
- 25 students filled out the evaluation, about 46 percent (which is similar to other courses); of those 25, this course was a required course for 24 students.
- On a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) students rated the course as 4.48, 4.36 and 4.24 for the questions about my instructor is actively helpful when students have problems; he displays enthusiasm when teaching, and he seems well prepare for class, respectively.
- Regarding how friendly and accessible I was, I got a 4.4; how I responded when a student indicated that he/she failed to comprehend, I got a 4.28; and I got a 3.92 for my rating about explaining difficult material clearly.
- On the question about whether the course improved the critical thinking skills of the student or not, the rating was a 3.44.
- Overall the rating for the course was a 3.48, and the rating for the instructor was a 4.32
The Comments section allows the students to write whatever feedback they wish. The comments for this course were not out of the ordinary and cover the whole spectrum. Here are three of the 15 written responses:
“I had no idea that a difficult class like this would actually be doable online. I actually enjoyed this class better than going to class in person. My instructor was always there when needed and explained everything I needed to know.”
“I will never take an online class again.”
“Dr. R is the most involved teacher I have ever had in college. He is extremely approachable and very willing to help in any way he can. I had a lot of trouble in this class (I am more of a reading/writing kind of girl), but he has worked with me on multiple occasions to better my understanding of this class. One of the best professors I’ve had!!”
This is pretty much what I expected for my first online course. We know that online is not for all students, but I needed to know if I could connect with my students, with those who need to take online courses or who see the benefit of doing it.
It seems I’m on the right track, but the economist in me keeps telling me that one data point does not make a trend. It’s time to start the revision process for my course, go through the Quality Matters rubric again, and polish my course this summer – so I am ready to teach it again in the fall.
I will let you know how things go. Wish me luck!!