This post originally appeared on elearningindustry.com
7 Factors That Affect Learner Satisfaction In eLearning
If you create and sell online courses, you must know that learner satisfaction is of utmost importance to your business. Your online course is your product and your students are also your customers. Therefore, you need to make sure that they are happy with their eLearning experience so that they continue using your service. From this perspective, consumer behavior literature offers us great insight into how to maintain learner satisfaction in eLearning services. The research in this field has informed the literature on eLearner satisfaction and eLearners’ intention to continue using eLearning in different contexts from higher education to corporate training. One of the widely accepted theories is Expectation Confirmation Theory, which is explained as follows:
“First, consumers form an initial expectation of a specific product or service prior to purchase. Second, they accept and use that product or service. Following a period of initial consumption, they form perceptions about its performance. Third, they assess its perceived performance vis a vis their original expectation and determine the extent to which their expectation is confirmed. Fourth, they form a satisfaction, or affect, based on their confirmation level and expectation on which that confirmation was based. Finally, satisfied consumers form a repurchase intention, while dissatisfied users discontinue its subsequent use.” (Bhattacherjee, 2001)
If your students’ prior expectations about your online course are confirmed in the post-adoption period, it is more likely that they become satisfied with your course and continue taking courses from you. Therefore, it is important not to promise what you cannot afford to offer in your eLearning service to avoid disappointments. This is especially relevant if you are also involved in marketing activities to promote your course.
Researchers in the field of eLearning have extended or modified the Expectation Confirmation Theory and examined several other variables to see if they influence learner satisfaction along with confirmation of students’ expectations. Here are some of the factors proven to have considerable impact on the success of eLearning determined by learner continuance behavior (retention).
1. System quality
Whether you use a Learning Management System or a website to host your online course, you need to make sure that your eLearning system:
- Has an easy navigation.
- Is free of errors and system bugs.
- Has a modern interface design.
- Is user friendly and responsive.
It has been confirmed by research that system qualities directly influence eLearners’ perceived ease of use as well as their satisfaction level about your course (Roca, Chiu, and Martínez, 2006).
2. Service quality
It refers to the availability of a communication channel for providing eLearners with timely assistance in solving their problems (Bhattacherjee, 2001). Make sure that:
- Your students are provided with sufficient guidance about how your course works.
- There is a support team available in case they encounter a problem.
- The support team is friendly and eager to solve your students’ problems.
eLearners might need even more assistance regarding online learning, because they have little or no physical contact with course providers and might be inexperienced in eLearning. Make sure that they are provided with sufficient guidance and assistance before they get anxious. (Roca, Chiu, and Martínez, 2006; Lin, 2007; Ozkan and Koseler, 2009; Ramayah, 2010)
3. Content quality
Your content is the backbone of your online course. Make sure that your online content:
- Is varied. Do not depend on only written text. Use visuals, videos, podcasts, eBbooks and study guides, etc.
- Is updated.
- Is coherent and well structured.
- Addresses different learning styles.
- Allows for learner-content interaction (e.g. presenting your content via interactive web tools such as thinglink and dipity).
4. Tutor quality
There have been numerous studies that confirm the effect of tutor quality on student achievement and satisfaction in eLearning (Ozkan and Koseler, 2009; Paechter, Maier, and Macher, 2010; Omar, Kalulu and Alijani, 2011; Chow and Shi 2014; Lwoga, 2014). Tutor’s presence, guidance, and instructional skills have been proven to lead to higher levels of eLearner satisfaction. Therefore, online tutors need to:
- Respond to students’ questions on time.
- Give students timely feedback on their progress.
- Guide students throughout their online learning experience.
- Facilitate meaningful interactions between tutor-students and students-students.
Several research studies have shown that above-mentioned qualities of tutors help learners perceive the eLearning environment as useful (Cheng, 2012; Lwoga, 2014) and easy to use (Lin, 2011).
5. Interaction quality
The importance of social learning has been confirmed to boost student learning. The study of Richardson and Swan (2003) showed that students reporting higher social presence in an online course also perceived they learned more from the course than the students with low perceived social presence. To promote social presence and a dynamic sense of community in your online course, you can:
- Integrate social media into your course (e.g. Twitter, blogging, Facebook groups).
- Create meaningful discussion threads.
- Set up project groups to allow for collaborative learning.
- Organize online sessions for synchronous discussions.
6. Cognitive absorption
It can be described as deep involvement with eLearning activities, and is manifested as students’ perceived enjoyment with your course. Roca, Chiu, and Martínez (2006) found evidence that cognitive absorption has a strong effect on learner satisfaction toward an online course. It needs to be ensured that the students are intrinsically motivated to learn the content you provide. Ensure that your online content:
- Arouses your students’ curiosity.
- Is enjoyable and interesting.
- Allows for some student control (e.g. let them choose their learning paths).
7. Learner related factors
It has been confirmed that not only course related factors but also learners’ own characteristics and their attitude toward technology and eLearning might affect how they approach and experience the online course (Cheok and Wong, 2015). Some of your students might be anxious about using technological devices for learning, therefore they might need more support and understanding than others do. Some of them might be using eLearning for the first time; therefore they might be having some initial prejudices toward eLearning. Their unique situations need to be addressed and necessary support should be provided to ease them into the course. Some tips to address learner characteristics include:
- Identifying their level of experience with eLearning and their computer self efficacy through pre-course assessment.
- Providing additional support to those who are in need of more guidance on the usage of your eLearning system.
- Acknowledging the fact that every learner is unique in their own way.
It is common that many learners discontinue using eLearning after the initial acceptance, which results in low retention rates. Maintaining learner continuance is critical for eLearning sustainability. Therefore, eLearning providers need to design effective eLearning environments by ensuring that the learners’ pre-adoption expectations are met and their learning experiences are enhanced through above-mentioned quality factors.
- Bhattacherjee, A., 2001. Understanding information systems continuance: An expectation- confirmation mode, MIS Quarterly, 25(3), p. 351.
- Cheng, Y.-M., 2012. Effects of quality antecedents on eLearning acceptance. Internet Research, 22 (3), pp.361–390
- Cheok M. L., Wong S. L., 2015. Predictors of eLearning satisfaction in teaching and learning for school teachers: a literature review. International Journal of Instruction, 8(1).
- Chow, W. S., & Shi, S., 2014. Investigating students’ satisfaction and continuance intention toward elearning: An extension of the expectation-confirmation model. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 141, pp.1145-1149.
- Hsiu-Fen Lin, 2007. Measuring online learning systems success: applying the updated DeLone and McLean model. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(6), pp.817-820.
- Lwoga E. T., 2014. Critical success factors for adoption of web-based learning management systems in Tanzania. International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT, 10(1), pp.4-21
- Omar, A., Kalulu, D., & Alijani, G.S., 2011. Management of innovative eLearning environments. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 15(3), pp. 37-64.
- Ozkan, S., Koseler, R., 2009. Multi-dimensional evaluation of eLearning systems in the higher education context: An empirical investigation of a computer literacy course, 2009 39th IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference.
- Paechter, M., Maier, B. and Macher, D., 2010. Students’ expectations of, and experiences in e- learning: Their relation to learning achievements and course satisfaction, Computers & Education, 54(1), pp. 222–229.
- Ramayah, T., 2010. Personal web usage and work inefficiency. Business Strategy Series, 11(5), pp. 295–301.
- Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K., 2003. Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), pp.68-88.
- Roca, J. C., Chiu, C.-M. and Martínez, F. J., 2006. Understanding eLearning continuance intention: An extension of the Technology Acceptance Model. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 64(8), pp. 683–696.