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45 survey questions to understand student engagement in online learning.

Nick Woolf

In our work with K-12 school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic, countless district leaders and school administrators have told us how challenging it's been to  build student engagement outside of the traditional classroom. 

Not only that, but the challenges associated with online learning may have the largest impact on students from marginalized communities.   Research   suggests that some groups of students experience more difficulty with academic performance and engagement when course content is delivered online vs. face-to-face.

As you look to improve the online learning experience for students, take a moment to understand  how students, caregivers, and staff are currently experiencing virtual learning. Where are the areas for improvement? How supported do students feel in their online coursework? Do teachers feel equipped to support students through synchronous and asynchronous facilitation? How confident do families feel in supporting their children at home?

Below, we've compiled a bank of 45 questions to understand student engagement in online learning.  Interested in running a student, family, or staff engagement survey? Click here to learn about Panorama's survey analytics platform for K-12 school districts.

Download Toolkit: 9 Virtual Learning Resources to Engage Students, Families, and Staff

45 Questions to Understand Student Engagement in Online Learning

For students (grades 3-5 and 6-12):.

1. How excited are you about going to your classes?

2. How often do you get so focused on activities in your classes that you lose track of time?

3. In your classes, how eager are you to participate?

4. When you are not in school, how often do you talk about ideas from your classes?

5. Overall, how interested are you in your classes?

6. What are the most engaging activities that happen in this class?

7. Which aspects of class have you found least engaging?

8. If you were teaching class, what is the one thing you would do to make it more engaging for all students?

9. How do you know when you are feeling engaged in class?

10. What projects/assignments/activities do you find most engaging in this class?

11. What does this teacher do to make this class engaging?

12. How much effort are you putting into your classes right now?

13. How difficult or easy is it for you to try hard on your schoolwork right now?

14. How difficult or easy is it for you to stay focused on your schoolwork right now?

15. If you have missed in-person school recently, why did you miss school?

16. If you have missed online classes recently, why did you miss class?

17. How would you like to be learning right now?

18. How happy are you with the amount of time you spend speaking with your teacher?

19. How difficult or easy is it to use the distance learning technology (computer, tablet, video calls, learning applications, etc.)?

20. What do you like about school right now?

21. What do you not like about school right now?

22. When you have online schoolwork, how often do you have the technology (laptop, tablet, computer, etc) you need?

23. How difficult or easy is it for you to connect to the internet to access your schoolwork?

24. What has been the hardest part about completing your schoolwork?

25. How happy are you with how much time you spend in specials or enrichment (art, music, PE, etc.)?

26. Are you getting all the help you need with your schoolwork right now?

27. How sure are you that you can do well in school right now?

28. Are there adults at your school you can go to for help if you need it right now?

29. If you are participating in distance learning, how often do you hear from your teachers individually?

For Families, Parents, and Caregivers:

30 How satisfied are you with the way learning is structured at your child’s school right now?

31. Do you think your child should spend less or more time learning in person at school right now?

32. How difficult or easy is it for your child to use the distance learning tools (video calls, learning applications, etc.)?

33. How confident are you in your ability to support your child's education during distance learning?

34. How confident are you that teachers can motivate students to learn in the current model?

35. What is working well with your child’s education that you would like to see continued?

36. What is challenging with your child’s education that you would like to see improved?

37. Does your child have their own tablet, laptop, or computer available for schoolwork when they need it?

38. What best describes your child's typical internet access?

39. Is there anything else you would like us to know about your family’s needs at this time?

For Teachers and Staff:

40.   In the past week, how many of your students regularly participated in your virtual classes?

41. In the past week, how engaged have students been in your virtual classes?

42. In the past week, how engaged have students been in your in-person classes?

43. Is there anything else you would like to share about student engagement at this time?

44. What is working well with the current learning model that you would like to see continued?

45. What is challenging about the current learning model that you would like to see improved?

Elevate Student, Family, and Staff Voices This Year With Panorama

Schools and districts can use Panorama’s leading survey administration and analytics platform to quickly gather and take action on information from students, families, teachers, and staff. The questions are applicable to all types of K-12 school settings and grade levels, as well as to communities serving students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

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In the Panorama platform, educators can view and disaggregate results by topic, question, demographic group, grade level, school, and more to inform priority areas and action plans. Districts may use the data to improve teaching and learning models, build stronger academic and social-emotional support systems, improve stakeholder communication, and inform staff professional development.

To learn more about Panorama's survey platform, get in touch with our team.

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80+ Remote Learning Survey Questions for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Last Updated:  

23 May 2024

Table Of Contents

  • Distance learning survey questions for Students
  • Distance learning survey questions for Teachers
  • Distance learning survey questions for Parents

Are you a school or university that’s transitioned to remote learning (or distance learning) during the Covid-19 pandemic? Looking to measure the effectiveness and experience of remote education? Remote learning (or distance learning) surveys can help! Remote learning survey questions help you improve student engagement and understand the challenges associated with remote learning. For example, the employees may want to customize the training schedules based on the shift plans . Or they may want to add case studies and simulations that they can solve as a team. A survey is a great way to create an effective remote training program.

In this article, we’ve put together a list of the 80 best remote learning survey questions you can ask students, parents, and teachers to optimize and design effective learning experiences.

Here’s everything we’ll cover:

47 Remote Learning Survey Questions for Students

  • 27 Remote Learning Survey Questions for Parents
  • 13 Remote Learning Survey Questions for Teachers

Before we dive into questions, what if I tell you I am here to make your job easier? If you are looking for a questionnaire, here is this full-fledged remote learning survey that asks the right questions to get the right feedback from students.

Feel free to use this template to collect critical feedback from your students. You can also customize it according to your brand identity and send it as your branded survey. Sign up and check it for free.

Try our remote learning survey to test the conversational experience!

Now, off to remote learning survey questions…

Learn about your students’ challenges and the effectiveness of your remote learning programs and resources with our list of the best remote learning survey questions for students:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your overall remote learning experience.
  • How stressful is remote learning for you during the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • Is this remote learning program working for you?
  • Do you enjoy learning remotely?
  • How peaceful is the environment at home while learning remotely?
  • Are you able to keep up with the number of hours you committed to each week?
  • How well could you manage your time while learning remotely?
  • How well is the online curriculum working for you?
  • Are you satisfied with the technology and software you are using for remote learning?
  • How important is face-to-face communication for you while learning remotely?
  • How often do you talk to your {school/university name} classmates?
  • Do you have access to a device for learning online?
  • How often do you have 1-1 discussions with your teachers?
  • How helpful are your teachers while learning online?
  • What type of device do you use for remote learning? (smartphone, desktop, tablet, etc.)
  • How much time do you spend each day on remote learning?
  • How effective has remote learning been for you?
  • Why are you using remote learning?
  • Are there any challenges that might prevent you from staying?
  • How often do you hear from your teachers when learning remotely?
  • Are there teachers you can go to for help if you need it?
  • How helpful has {school or university name} been in providing you with the resources to learn from home?
  • How sure are you that you can do well?
  • Are you getting all the help you need with your coursework?
  • What has been the hardest part about completing your coursework?
  • How difficult or easy is it for you to connect to the internet to access your coursework?
  • When you have your online classes, how often do you have the technology (laptop, tablet, etc) you need?
  • What do you not like about your remote learning classes?
  • What do you like about your remote learning classes?
  • How difficult or easy is it to use remote learning technology (computer, video conferencing tools , online learning software, etc.)?
  • How difficult (or easy) is it to stay focused on your coursework?
  • What does this teacher do to make this class engaging?
  • How much effort are you putting into your online classes?
  • How difficult (or easy) is it to try hard on your coursework?
  • What projects or activities do you find the most engaging in this class?
  • How do you know when you are engaged in your online classes?
  • If you were teaching an online class yourself, what is the one thing you would do to make it more engaging?
  • Which aspects of your online class have you found the least engaging?
  • What are the most engaging activities that happen in this class?
  • How often are you so focused in your online classes that you lose track of time?
  • How eager are you to participate in your online classes?
  • If you have missed any online classes recently, why did you miss them?
  • How excited are you about attending your online classes?
  • Overall, how interested are you in your online classes?
  • How else would you like to be learning?
  • How happy are you with the amount of time you spend speaking with your teacher?
  • Do you have any suggestions for us? Anything you would like to see offered or done differently?

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27 Remote Learning Survey Questions for Teachers

To help your teachers give their best and succeed in remote learning, here are the top remote survey questions for teachers:

  • How stressful do you find teaching remotely during the pandemic?
  • How stressful are your students while learning remotely during the pandemic?
  • Are you enjoying teaching remotely?
  • How well could you maintain a work-life balance while teaching remotely?
  • How was your experience teaching your students from home as compared to teaching them at school?
  • Approximately how long has your work taken you each day?
  • How challenging has the work been for you?
  • Do you have access to a device for online teaching?
  • How many of your students regularly participated in your online classes in the past few weeks?
  • Do you have high-speed internet at home?
  • How helpful has {school or university name} been in offering you the resources to teach from home?
  • What device do you use for online teaching?
  • Are you satisfied with the technology and software you are using for online teaching?
  • How is {school or university name} delivering remote learning?
  • What kind of response have you received from your students so far?
  • How helpful have your coworkers been while teaching online?
  • What specific task have you found the most challenging?
  • How ideal is your home environment for teaching remotely?
  • Are your students learning better after switching to remote learning?
  • How often do you have 1-1 discussions with your students?
  • How helpful have parents been while supporting their children’s remote learning?
  • Is there anything you would like to share about student engagement?
  • How important is face-to-face communication for you while teaching remotely?
  • How engaged have students been in your online classes in the past few weeks?
  • What types of tasks have you found the most interesting and enjoyable?
  • How can {school or university name} support you further?
  • Do you have any suggestions to help improve the whole process of working from home?

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13 Remote Learning Survey Questions for Parents

Measure the parents’ or caregiver’s satisfaction with your online learning programs and more with our list of remote learning survey questions for parents:

  • Do all the members of your family work?
  • How soon would you like your child to return to in-person learning full-time?
  • How satisfied are you with the software and platforms used for remote learning?
  • What more can {school or university name} do to improve your child’s remote learning initiatives?
  • How concerned are you about your child’s social-emotional health and development?
  • How difficult or easy is it for your child to use remote learning tools and platforms?
  • Are you confident your child will make sufficient progress through remote learning?
  • How satisfied are you with the way your child’s course has been structured and delivered?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate the communication between students and teachers?
  • How confident are you in your ability to support your child’s remote education?
  • Does your child have the necessary tools available for coursework?
  • How confident are you that teachers can motivate students to learn effectively?
  • is there anything you would like us to know about your family’s needs or preferences?

Final thoughts

Remote or distance learning surveys can help provide you with all the insights you need to make necessary adjustments. The above questions will help you quickly gather and take action on feedback from students, teachers, and parents.

If you’re looking to create pleasant experiences and get more responses from your surveys, take the conversational way and give SurveySparrow a whirl today!

Have you got any questions on creating remote learning surveys? Got any tips or hacks for conducting effective distance learning surveys? Let us know in the comment section below.

Looking for a survey platform that makes it easy and effective to conduct remote learning surveys? Wondering whether SurveySparrow is the right fit for conducting distance learning surveys? Reach out to us for a free, personalized demo!

I'm a developer turned marketer, working as a Product Marketer at SurveySparrow — A survey tool that lets anyone create beautiful, conversational surveys people love to answer.

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research questions for online learning

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Distance learning survey for students: Tips & examples

Distance learning survey questions for students

The COVID-19 pandemic changed learning in many unprecedented ways. Students had to not just move to online learning but also keep a social distance from their friends and family. A student interest survey helps customize teaching methods and curriculum to make learning more engaging and relevant to students’ lives. It was quite challenging for some to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and missed the in-person interaction with their teachers. For some, it simply meant spending more time with the parents.

Schools need to know how students feel about distance education and learn more about their experiences. To collect data, they can send out a survey on remote learning for students. Once they have the results, the management team can know what students like in the existing setup and what they would like to change.

The classroom response system allowed students to answer multiple-choice questions and engage in real-time discussions instantly.

Here are the examples of class survey questions of distance learning survey for students you must ask to collect their feedback.

LEARN ABOUT:  Testimonial Questions

Examples of distance learning survey questions for students

1. How do you feel overall about distance education?

  • Below Average

This question collects responses about the overall experience of the students regarding online education. Schools can use this data to decide whether they should continue with teaching online or move in-person learning.

2. Do you have access to a device for learning online?

  • Yes, but it doesn’t work well
  • No, I share with others

Students should have uninterrupted access to a device for learning online. Know if they face any challenges with the device’s hardware quality. Or if they share the device with others in the house and can’t access when they need it.

3. What device do you use for distance learning?

Know whether students use a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet for distance learning. A laptop or desktop would be an ideal choice for its screen size and quality. You can use a multiple-choice question type in your questionnaire for distance education students.

4. How much time do you spend each day on an average on distance education?

Know how much time do students spend while taking an online course. Analyze if they are over-spending time and find out the reasons behind it. Students must allocate some time to play and exercise while staying at home to take care of their health. You can find out from answers to this question whether they spend time on other activities as well.

5. How effective has remote learning been for you?

  • Not at all effective
  • Slightly effective
  • Moderately effective
  • Very effective
  • Extremely effective

Depending on an individual’s personality, students may like to learn in the classroom with fellow students or alone at home. The classroom offers a more lively and interactive environment, whereas it is relatively calm at home. You can use this question to know if remote learning is working for students or not. 

6. How helpful your [School or University] has been in offering you the resources to learn from home?

  • Not at all helpful
  • Slightly helpful
  • Moderately helpful
  • Very helpful
  • Extremely helpful

The school management teams need to offer full support to both teachers and students to make distance education comfortable and effective. They should provide support in terms of technological infrastructure and process framework. Given the pandemic situation, schools must allow more flexibility and create lesser strict policies.

7. How stressful is distance learning for you during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Studying in the time of pandemic can be quite stressful, especially if you or someone in the family is not doing well. Measure the stress level of the students and identify ways to reduce it. For instance, you can organize an online dance party or a lego game. The responses to this question can be crucial in deciding the future course of distance learning. 

8. How well could you manage time while learning remotely? (Consider 5 being extremely well and 1 being not at all)

  • Academic schedule

Staying at home all the time and balancing multiple things can be stressful for many people. It requires students to have good time-management skills and self-discipline. Students can rate their experience on a scale of 1-5 and share it with the school authorities. Use a multiple-choice matrix question type for such questions in your distance learning questionnaire for students.

LEARN ABOUT: System Usability Scale

9. Do you enjoy learning remotely?

  • Yes, absolutely
  • Yes, but I would like to change a few things
  • No, there are quite a few challenges
  • No, not at all

Get a high-level view on whether students are enjoying learning from home or doing it because they are being forced to do so. Gain insights on how you can improve distance education and make it interesting for them.

10. How helpful are your teachers while studying online?

Distance education lacks proximity with teachers and has its own set of unique challenges. Some students may find it difficult to learn a subject and take more time to understand. This question measures the extent to which students find their teachers helpful.

You can also use a ready-made survey template to save time. The sample questionnaire for students can be easily customized as per your requirements.

USE THIS TEMPLATE

Other important questions of distance learning survey for students

  • How peaceful is the environment at home while learning?
  •  Are you satisfied with the technology and software you are using for online learning?
  • How important is face-to-face communication for you while learning remotely?
  • How often do you talk to your [School/University] classmates?
  • How often do you have a 1-1 discussion with your teachers?

How to create a survey?

The intent behind creating a remote learning questionnaire for students should be to know how schools and teachers can better support them. Use an online survey software like ours to create a survey or use a template to get started. Distribute the survey through email, mobile app, website, or QR code.

Once you get the survey results, generate reports, and share them with your team. You can also download them in formats like .pdf, .doc, and .xls. To analyze data from multiple resources, you can integrate the survey software with third-party apps.

If you need any help with designing a survey, customizing the look and feel, or deriving insights from it, get in touch with us. We’d be happy to help.

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research questions for online learning

A Systematic Review of the Research Topics in Online Learning During COVID-19: Documenting the Sudden Shift

  • Min Young Doo Kangwon National University http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3565-2159
  • Meina Zhu Wayne State University
  • Curtis J. Bonk Indiana University Bloomington

Since most schools and learners had no choice but to learn online during the pandemic, online learning became the mainstream learning mode rather than a substitute for traditional face-to-face learning. Given this enormous change in online learning, we conducted a systematic review of 191 of the most recent online learning studies published during the COVID-19 era. The systematic review results indicated that the themes regarding “courses and instructors” became popular during the pandemic, whereas most online learning research has focused on “learners” pre-COVID-19. Notably, the research topics “course and instructors” and “course technology” received more attention than prior to COVID-19. We found that “engagement” remained the most common research theme even after the pandemic. New research topics included parents, technology acceptance or adoption of online learning, and learners’ and instructors’ perceptions of online learning.

An, H., Mongillo, G., Sung, W., & Fuentes, D. (2022). Factors affecting online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: The lived experiences of parents, teachers, and administrators in U.S. high-needs K-12 schools. The Journal of Online Learning Research (JOLR), 8(2), 203-234. https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/220404/

Aslan, S., Li, Q., Bonk, C. J., & Nachman, L. (2022). An overnight educational transformation: How did the pandemic turn early childhood education upside down? Online Learning, 26(2), 52-77. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v26i2.2748

Azizan, S. N., Lee, A. S. H., Crosling, G., Atherton, G., Arulanandam, B. V., Lee, C. E., &

Abdul Rahim, R. B. (2022). Online learning and COVID-19 in higher education: The value of IT models in assessing students’ satisfaction. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET), 17(3), 245–278. https://doi.org/10.3991/ijet.v17i03.24871

Beatty, B. J. (2019). Hybrid-flexible course design (1st ed.). EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/hyflex

Berge, Z., & Mrozowski, S. (2001). Review of research in distance education, 1990 to 1999. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(3), 5–19. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/08923640109527090

Bond, M. (2020). Schools and emergency remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic: A living rapid systematic review. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 191-247. http://www.asianjde.com/ojs/index.php/AsianJDE/article/view/517

Bond, M., Bedenlier, S., Marín, V. I., & Händel, M. (2021). Emergency remote teaching in higher education: Mapping the first global online semester. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18(1), 1-24. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00282-x

Bonk, C. J. (2020). Pandemic ponderings, 30 years to today: Synchronous signals, saviors, or survivors? Distance Education, 41(4), 589-599. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2020.1821610

Bonk, C. J., & Graham, C. R. (Eds.) (2006). Handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. Pfeiffer Publishing.

Bonk, C. J., Olson, T., Wisher, R. A., & Orvis, K. L. (2002). Learning from focus groups: An examination of blended learning. Journal of Distance Education, 17(3), 97-118.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Braun, V., Clarke, V., & Rance, N. (2014). How to use thematic analysis with interview data. In A. Vossler & N. Moller (Eds.), The counselling & psychotherapy research handbook, 183–197. Sage.

Canales-Romero, D., & Hachfeld, A (2021). Juggling school and work from home: Results from a survey on German families with school-aged children during the early COVID-19 lockdown. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.734257

Cao, Y., Zhang, S., Chan, M.C.E., Kang. Y. (2021). Post-pandemic reflections: lessons from Chinese mathematics teachers about online mathematics instruction. Asia Pacific Education Review, 22, 157–168. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-021-09694-w

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022, May 4). COVID-19 forecasts: Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/forecasting/forecasting-us.html

Chang, H. M, & Kim. H. J. (2021). Predicting the pass probability of secondary school students taking online classes. Computers & Education, 164, 104110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2020.104110

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Research Article

COVID-19’s impacts on the scope, effectiveness, and interaction characteristics of online learning: A social network analysis

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

¶ ‡ JZ and YD are contributed equally to this work as first authors.

Affiliation School of Educational Information Technology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing – original draft

Affiliations School of Educational Information Technology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, Hangzhou Zhongce Vocational School Qiantang, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

Roles Data curation, Writing – original draft

Roles Data curation

Roles Writing – original draft

Affiliation Faculty of Education, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Roles Conceptualization, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected] (JH); [email protected] (YZ)

ORCID logo

  • Junyi Zhang, 
  • Yigang Ding, 
  • Xinru Yang, 
  • Jinping Zhong, 
  • XinXin Qiu, 
  • Zhishan Zou, 
  • Yujie Xu, 
  • Xiunan Jin, 
  • Xiaomin Wu, 

PLOS

  • Published: August 23, 2022
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016
  • Reader Comments

Table 1

The COVID-19 outbreak brought online learning to the forefront of education. Scholars have conducted many studies on online learning during the pandemic, but only a few have performed quantitative comparative analyses of students’ online learning behavior before and after the outbreak. We collected review data from China’s massive open online course platform called icourse.163 and performed social network analysis on 15 courses to explore courses’ interaction characteristics before, during, and after the COVID-19 pan-demic. Specifically, we focused on the following aspects: (1) variations in the scale of online learning amid COVID-19; (2a) the characteristics of online learning interaction during the pandemic; (2b) the characteristics of online learning interaction after the pandemic; and (3) differences in the interaction characteristics of social science courses and natural science courses. Results revealed that only a small number of courses witnessed an uptick in online interaction, suggesting that the pandemic’s role in promoting the scale of courses was not significant. During the pandemic, online learning interaction became more frequent among course network members whose interaction scale increased. After the pandemic, although the scale of interaction declined, online learning interaction became more effective. The scale and level of interaction in Electrodynamics (a natural science course) and Economics (a social science course) both rose during the pan-demic. However, long after the pandemic, the Economics course sustained online interaction whereas interaction in the Electrodynamics course steadily declined. This discrepancy could be due to the unique characteristics of natural science courses and social science courses.

Citation: Zhang J, Ding Y, Yang X, Zhong J, Qiu X, Zou Z, et al. (2022) COVID-19’s impacts on the scope, effectiveness, and interaction characteristics of online learning: A social network analysis. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0273016. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016

Editor: Heng Luo, Central China Normal University, CHINA

Received: April 20, 2022; Accepted: July 29, 2022; Published: August 23, 2022

Copyright: © 2022 Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: The data underlying the results presented in the study were downloaded from https://www.icourse163.org/ and are now shared fully on Github ( https://github.com/zjyzhangjunyi/dataset-from-icourse163-for-SNA ). These data have no private information and can be used for academic research free of charge.

Funding: The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

1. Introduction

The development of the mobile internet has spurred rapid advances in online learning, offering novel prospects for teaching and learning and a learning experience completely different from traditional instruction. Online learning harnesses the advantages of network technology and multimedia technology to transcend the boundaries of conventional education [ 1 ]. Online courses have become a popular learning mode owing to their flexibility and openness. During online learning, teachers and students are in different physical locations but interact in multiple ways (e.g., via online forum discussions and asynchronous group discussions). An analysis of online learning therefore calls for attention to students’ participation. Alqurashi [ 2 ] defined interaction in online learning as the process of constructing meaningful information and thought exchanges between more than two people; such interaction typically occurs between teachers and learners, learners and learners, and the course content and learners.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs), a 21st-century teaching mode, have greatly influenced global education. Data released by China’s Ministry of Education in 2020 show that the country ranks first globally in the number and scale of higher education MOOCs. The COVID-19 outbreak has further propelled this learning mode, with universities being urged to leverage MOOCs and other online resource platforms to respond to government’s “School’s Out, But Class’s On” policy [ 3 ]. Besides MOOCs, to reduce in-person gatherings and curb the spread of COVID-19, various online learning methods have since become ubiquitous [ 4 ]. Though Lederman asserted that the COVID-19 outbreak has positioned online learning technologies as the best way for teachers and students to obtain satisfactory learning experiences [ 5 ], it remains unclear whether the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged interaction in online learning, as interactions between students and others play key roles in academic performance and largely determine the quality of learning experiences [ 6 ]. Similarly, it is also unclear what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the scale of online learning.

Social constructivism paints learning as a social phenomenon. As such, analyzing the social structures or patterns that emerge during the learning process can shed light on learning-based interaction [ 7 ]. Social network analysis helps to explain how a social network, rooted in interactions between learners and their peers, guides individuals’ behavior, emotions, and outcomes. This analytical approach is especially useful for evaluating interactive relationships between network members [ 8 ]. Mohammed cited social network analysis (SNA) as a method that can provide timely information about students, learning communities and interactive networks. SNA has been applied in numerous fields, including education, to identify the number and characteristics of interelement relationships. For example, Lee et al. also used SNA to explore the effects of blogs on peer relationships [ 7 ]. Therefore, adopting SNA to examine interactions in online learning communities during the COVID-19 pandemic can uncover potential issues with this online learning model.

Taking China’s icourse.163 MOOC platform as an example, we chose 15 courses with a large number of participants for SNA, focusing on learners’ interaction characteristics before, during, and after the COVID-19 outbreak. We visually assessed changes in the scale of network interaction before, during, and after the outbreak along with the characteristics of interaction in Gephi. Examining students’ interactions in different courses revealed distinct interactive network characteristics, the pandemic’s impact on online courses, and relevant suggestions. Findings are expected to promote effective interaction and deep learning among students in addition to serving as a reference for the development of other online learning communities.

2. Literature review and research questions

Interaction is deemed as central to the educational experience and is a major focus of research on online learning. Moore began to study the problem of interaction in distance education as early as 1989. He defined three core types of interaction: student–teacher, student–content, and student–student [ 9 ]. Lear et al. [ 10 ] described an interactivity/ community-process model of distance education: they specifically discussed the relationships between interactivity, community awareness, and engaging learners and found interactivity and community awareness to be correlated with learner engagement. Zulfikar et al. [ 11 ] suggested that discussions initiated by the students encourage more students’ engagement than discussions initiated by the instructors. It is most important to afford learners opportunities to interact purposefully with teachers, and improving the quality of learner interaction is crucial to fostering profound learning [ 12 ]. Interaction is an important way for learners to communicate and share information, and a key factor in the quality of online learning [ 13 ].

Timely feedback is the main component of online learning interaction. Woo and Reeves discovered that students often become frustrated when they fail to receive prompt feedback [ 14 ]. Shelley et al. conducted a three-year study of graduate and undergraduate students’ satisfaction with online learning at universities and found that interaction with educators and students is the main factor affecting satisfaction [ 15 ]. Teachers therefore need to provide students with scoring justification, support, and constructive criticism during online learning. Some researchers examined online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that most students preferred face-to-face learning rather than online learning due to obstacles faced online, such as a lack of motivation, limited teacher-student interaction, and a sense of isolation when learning in different times and spaces [ 16 , 17 ]. However, it can be reduced by enhancing the online interaction between teachers and students [ 18 ].

Research showed that interactions contributed to maintaining students’ motivation to continue learning [ 19 ]. Baber argued that interaction played a key role in students’ academic performance and influenced the quality of the online learning experience [ 20 ]. Hodges et al. maintained that well-designed online instruction can lead to unique teaching experiences [ 21 ]. Banna et al. mentioned that using discussion boards, chat sessions, blogs, wikis, and other tools could promote student interaction and improve participation in online courses [ 22 ]. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahmood proposed a series of teaching strategies suitable for distance learning to improve its effectiveness [ 23 ]. Lapitan et al. devised an online strategy to ease the transition from traditional face-to-face instruction to online learning [ 24 ]. The preceding discussion suggests that online learning goes beyond simply providing learning resources; teachers should ideally design real-life activities to give learners more opportunities to participate.

As mentioned, COVID-19 has driven many scholars to explore the online learning environment. However, most have ignored the uniqueness of online learning during this time and have rarely compared pre- and post-pandemic online learning interaction. Taking China’s icourse.163 MOOC platform as an example, we chose 15 courses with a large number of participants for SNA, centering on student interaction before and after the pandemic. Gephi was used to visually analyze changes in the scale and characteristics of network interaction. The following questions were of particular interest:

  • (1) Can the COVID-19 pandemic promote the expansion of online learning?
  • (2a) What are the characteristics of online learning interaction during the pandemic?
  • (2b) What are the characteristics of online learning interaction after the pandemic?
  • (3) How do interaction characteristics differ between social science courses and natural science courses?

3. Methodology

3.1 research context.

We selected several courses with a large number of participants and extensive online interaction among hundreds of courses on the icourse.163 MOOC platform. These courses had been offered on the platform for at least three semesters, covering three periods (i.e., before, during, and after the COVID-19 outbreak). To eliminate the effects of shifts in irrelevant variables (e.g., course teaching activities), we chose several courses with similar teaching activities and compared them on multiple dimensions. All course content was taught online. The teachers of each course posted discussion threads related to learning topics; students were expected to reply via comments. Learners could exchange ideas freely in their responses in addition to asking questions and sharing their learning experiences. Teachers could answer students’ questions as well. Conversations in the comment area could partly compensate for a relative absence of online classroom interaction. Teacher–student interaction is conducive to the formation of a social network structure and enabled us to examine teachers’ and students’ learning behavior through SNA. The comment areas in these courses were intended for learners to construct knowledge via reciprocal communication. Meanwhile, by answering students’ questions, teachers could encourage them to reflect on their learning progress. These courses’ successive terms also spanned several phases of COVID-19, allowing us to ascertain the pandemic’s impact on online learning.

3.2 Data collection and preprocessing

To avoid interference from invalid or unclear data, the following criteria were applied to select representative courses: (1) generality (i.e., public courses and professional courses were chosen from different schools across China); (2) time validity (i.e., courses were held before during, and after the pandemic); and (3) notability (i.e., each course had at least 2,000 participants). We ultimately chose 15 courses across the social sciences and natural sciences (see Table 1 ). The coding is used to represent the course name.

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To discern courses’ evolution during the pandemic, we gathered data on three terms before, during, and after the COVID-19 outbreak in addition to obtaining data from two terms completed well before the pandemic and long after. Our final dataset comprised five sets of interactive data. Finally, we collected about 120,000 comments for SNA. Because each course had a different start time—in line with fluctuations in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China and the opening dates of most colleges and universities—we divided our sample into five phases: well before the pandemic (Phase I); before the pandemic (Phase Ⅱ); during the pandemic (Phase Ⅲ); after the pandemic (Phase Ⅳ); and long after the pandemic (Phase Ⅴ). We sought to preserve consistent time spans to balance the amount of data in each period ( Fig 1 ).

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3.3 Instrumentation

Participants’ comments and “thumbs-up” behavior data were converted into a network structure and compared using social network analysis (SNA). Network analysis, according to M’Chirgui, is an effective tool for clarifying network relationships by employing sophisticated techniques [ 25 ]. Specifically, SNA can help explain the underlying relationships among team members and provide a better understanding of their internal processes. Yang and Tang used SNA to discuss the relationship between team structure and team performance [ 26 ]. Golbeck argued that SNA could improve the understanding of students’ learning processes and reveal learners’ and teachers’ role dynamics [ 27 ].

To analyze Question (1), the number of nodes and diameter in the generated network were deemed as indicators of changes in network size. Social networks are typically represented as graphs with nodes and degrees, and node count indicates the sample size [ 15 ]. Wellman et al. proposed that the larger the network scale, the greater the number of network members providing emotional support, goods, services, and companionship [ 28 ]. Jan’s study measured the network size by counting the nodes which represented students, lecturers, and tutors [ 29 ]. Similarly, network nodes in the present study indicated how many learners and teachers participated in the course, with more nodes indicating more participants. Furthermore, we investigated the network diameter, a structural feature of social networks, which is a common metric for measuring network size in SNA [ 30 ]. The network diameter refers to the longest path between any two nodes in the network. There has been evidence that a larger network diameter leads to greater spread of behavior [ 31 ]. Likewise, Gašević et al. found that larger networks were more likely to spread innovative ideas about educational technology when analyzing MOOC-related research citations [ 32 ]. Therefore, we employed node count and network diameter to measure the network’s spatial size and further explore the expansion characteristic of online courses. Brief introduction of these indicators can be summarized in Table 2 .

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To address Question (2), a list of interactive analysis metrics in SNA were introduced to scrutinize learners’ interaction characteristics in online learning during and after the pandemic, as shown below:

  • (1) The average degree reflects the density of the network by calculating the average number of connections for each node. As Rong and Xu suggested, the average degree of a network indicates how active its participants are [ 33 ]. According to Hu, a higher average degree implies that more students are interacting directly with each other in a learning context [ 34 ]. The present study inherited the concept of the average degree from these previous studies: the higher the average degree, the more frequent the interaction between individuals in the network.
  • (2) Essentially, a weighted average degree in a network is calculated by multiplying each degree by its respective weight, and then taking the average. Bydžovská took the strength of the relationship into account when determining the weighted average degree [ 35 ]. By calculating friendship’s weighted value, Maroulis assessed peer achievement within a small-school reform [ 36 ]. Accordingly, we considered the number of interactions as the weight of the degree, with a higher average degree indicating more active interaction among learners.
  • (3) Network density is the ratio between actual connections and potential connections in a network. The more connections group members have with each other, the higher the network density. In SNA, network density is similar to group cohesion, i.e., a network of more strong relationships is more cohesive [ 37 ]. Network density also reflects how much all members are connected together [ 38 ]. Therefore, we adopted network density to indicate the closeness among network members. Higher network density indicates more frequent interaction and closer communication among students.
  • (4) Clustering coefficient describes local network attributes and indicates that two nodes in the network could be connected through adjacent nodes. The clustering coefficient measures users’ tendency to gather (cluster) with others in the network: the higher the clustering coefficient, the more frequently users communicate with other group members. We regarded this indicator as a reflection of the cohesiveness of the group [ 39 ].
  • (5) In a network, the average path length is the average number of steps along the shortest paths between any two nodes. Oliveres has observed that when an average path length is small, the route from one node to another is shorter when graphed [ 40 ]. This is especially true in educational settings where students tend to become closer friends. So we consider that the smaller the average path length, the greater the possibility of interaction between individuals in the network.
  • (6) A network with a large number of nodes, but whose average path length is surprisingly small, is known as the small-world effect [ 41 ]. A higher clustering coefficient and shorter average path length are important indicators of a small-world network: a shorter average path length enables the network to spread information faster and more accurately; a higher clustering coefficient can promote frequent knowledge exchange within the group while boosting the timeliness and accuracy of knowledge dissemination [ 42 ]. Brief introduction of these indicators can be summarized in Table 3 .

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To analyze Question 3, we used the concept of closeness centrality, which determines how close a vertex is to others in the network. As Opsahl et al. explained, closeness centrality reveals how closely actors are coupled with their entire social network [ 43 ]. In order to analyze social network-based engineering education, Putnik et al. examined closeness centrality and found that it was significantly correlated with grades [ 38 ]. We used closeness centrality to measure the position of an individual in the network. Brief introduction of these indicators can be summarized in Table 4 .

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3.4 Ethics statement

This study was approved by the Academic Committee Office (ACO) of South China Normal University ( http://fzghb.scnu.edu.cn/ ), Guangzhou, China. Research data were collected from the open platform and analyzed anonymously. There are thus no privacy issues involved in this study.

4.1 COVID-19’s role in promoting the scale of online courses was not as important as expected

As shown in Fig 2 , the number of course participants and nodes are closely correlated with the pandemic’s trajectory. Because the number of participants in each course varied widely, we normalized the number of participants and nodes to more conveniently visualize course trends. Fig 2 depicts changes in the chosen courses’ number of participants and nodes before the pandemic (Phase II), during the pandemic (Phase III), and after the pandemic (Phase IV). The number of participants in most courses during the pandemic exceeded those before and after the pandemic. But the number of people who participate in interaction in some courses did not increase.

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In order to better analyze the trend of interaction scale in online courses before, during, and after the pandemic, the selected courses were categorized according to their scale change. When the number of participants increased (decreased) beyond 20% (statistical experience) and the diameter also increased (decreased), the course scale was determined to have increased (decreased); otherwise, no significant change was identified in the course’s interaction scale. Courses were subsequently divided into three categories: increased interaction scale, decreased interaction scale, and no significant change. Results appear in Table 5 .

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From before the pandemic until it broke out, the interaction scale of five courses increased, accounting for 33.3% of the full sample; one course’s interaction scale declined, accounting for 6.7%. The interaction scale of nine courses decreased, accounting for 60%. The pandemic’s role in promoting online courses thus was not as important as anticipated, and most courses’ interaction scale did not change significantly throughout.

No courses displayed growing interaction scale after the pandemic: the interaction scale of nine courses fell, accounting for 60%; and the interaction scale of six courses did not shift significantly, accounting for 40%. Courses with an increased scale of interaction during the pandemic did not maintain an upward trend. On the contrary, the improvement in the pandemic caused learners’ enthusiasm for online learning to wane. We next analyzed several interaction metrics to further explore course interaction during different pandemic periods.

4.2 Characteristics of online learning interaction amid COVID-19

4.2.1 during the covid-19 pandemic, online learning interaction in some courses became more active..

Changes in course indicators with the growing interaction scale during the pandemic are presented in Fig 3 , including SS5, SS6, NS1, NS3, and NS8. The horizontal ordinate indicates the number of courses, with red color representing the rise of the indicator value on the vertical ordinate and blue representing the decline.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.g003

Specifically: (1) The average degree and weighted average degree of the five course networks demonstrated an upward trend. The emergence of the pandemic promoted students’ enthusiasm; learners were more active in the interactive network. (2) Fig 3 shows that 3 courses had increased network density and 2 courses had decreased. The higher the network density, the more communication within the team. Even though the pandemic accelerated the interaction scale and frequency, the tightness between learners in some courses did not improve. (3) The clustering coefficient of social science courses rose whereas the clustering coefficient and small-world property of natural science courses fell. The higher the clustering coefficient and the small-world property, the better the relationship between adjacent nodes and the higher the cohesion [ 39 ]. (4) Most courses’ average path length increased as the interaction scale increased. However, when the average path length grew, adverse effects could manifest: communication between learners might be limited to a small group without multi-directional interaction.

When the pandemic emerged, the only declining network scale belonged to a natural science course (NS2). The change in each course index is pictured in Fig 4 . The abscissa indicates the size of the value, with larger values to the right. The red dot indicates the index value before the pandemic; the blue dot indicates its value during the pandemic. If the blue dot is to the right of the red dot, then the value of the index increased; otherwise, the index value declined. Only the weighted average degree of the course network increased. The average degree, network density decreased, indicating that network members were not active and that learners’ interaction degree and communication frequency lessened. Despite reduced learner interaction, the average path length was small and the connectivity between learners was adequate.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.g004

4.2.2 After the COVID-19 pandemic, the scale decreased rapidly, but most course interaction was more effective.

Fig 5 shows the changes in various courses’ interaction indicators after the pandemic, including SS1, SS2, SS3, SS6, SS7, NS2, NS3, NS7, and NS8.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.g005

Specifically: (1) The average degree and weighted average degree of most course networks decreased. The scope and intensity of interaction among network members declined rapidly, as did learners’ enthusiasm for communication. (2) The network density of seven courses also fell, indicating weaker connections between learners in most courses. (3) In addition, the clustering coefficient and small-world property of most course networks decreased, suggesting little possibility of small groups in the network. The scope of interaction between learners was not limited to a specific space, and the interaction objects had no significant tendencies. (4) Although the scale of course interaction became smaller in this phase, the average path length of members’ social networks shortened in nine courses. Its shorter average path length would expedite the spread of information within the network as well as communication and sharing among network members.

Fig 6 displays the evolution of course interaction indicators without significant changes in interaction scale after the pandemic, including SS4, SS5, NS1, NS4, NS5, and NS6.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.g006

Specifically: (1) Some course members’ social networks exhibited an increase in the average and weighted average. In these cases, even though the course network’s scale did not continue to increase, communication among network members rose and interaction became more frequent and deeper than before. (2) Network density and average path length are indicators of social network density. The greater the network density, the denser the social network; the shorter the average path length, the more concentrated the communication among network members. However, at this phase, the average path length and network density in most courses had increased. Yet the network density remained small despite having risen ( Table 6 ). Even with more frequent learner interaction, connections remained distant and the social network was comparatively sparse.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.t006

In summary, the scale of interaction did not change significantly overall. Nonetheless, some course members’ frequency and extent of interaction increased, and the relationships between network members became closer as well. In the study, we found it interesting that the interaction scale of Economics (a social science course) course and Electrodynamics (a natural science course) course expanded rapidly during the pandemic and retained their interaction scale thereafter. We next assessed these two courses to determine whether their level of interaction persisted after the pandemic.

4.3 Analyses of natural science courses and social science courses

4.3.1 analyses of the interaction characteristics of economics and electrodynamics..

Economics and Electrodynamics are social science courses and natural science courses, respectively. Members’ interaction within these courses was similar: the interaction scale increased significantly when COVID-19 broke out (Phase Ⅲ), and no significant changes emerged after the pandemic (Phase Ⅴ). We hence focused on course interaction long after the outbreak (Phase V) and compared changes across multiple indicators, as listed in Table 7 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.t007

As the pandemic continued to improve, the number of participants and the diameter long after the outbreak (Phase V) each declined for Economics compared with after the pandemic (Phase IV). The interaction scale decreased, but the interaction between learners was much deeper. Specifically: (1) The weighted average degree, network density, clustering coefficient, and small-world property each reflected upward trends. The pandemic therefore exerted a strong impact on this course. Interaction was well maintained even after the pandemic. The smaller network scale promoted members’ interaction and communication. (2) Compared with after the pandemic (Phase IV), members’ network density increased significantly, showing that relationships between learners were closer and that cohesion was improving. (3) At the same time, as the clustering coefficient and small-world property grew, network members demonstrated strong small-group characteristics: the communication between them was deepening and their enthusiasm for interaction was higher. (4) Long after the COVID-19 outbreak (Phase V), the average path length was reduced compared with previous terms, knowledge flowed more quickly among network members, and the degree of interaction gradually deepened.

The average degree, weighted average degree, network density, clustering coefficient, and small-world property of Electrodynamics all decreased long after the COVID-19 outbreak (Phase V) and were lower than during the outbreak (Phase Ⅲ). The level of learner interaction therefore gradually declined long after the outbreak (Phase V), and connections between learners were no longer active. Although the pandemic increased course members’ extent of interaction, this rise was merely temporary: students’ enthusiasm for learning waned rapidly and their interaction decreased after the pandemic (Phase IV). To further analyze the interaction characteristics of course members in Economics and Electrodynamics, we evaluated the closeness centrality of their social networks, as shown in section 4.3.2.

4.3.2 Analysis of the closeness centrality of Economics and Electrodynamics.

The change in the closeness centrality of social networks in Economics was small, and no sharp upward trend appeared during the pandemic outbreak, as shown in Fig 7 . The emergence of COVID-19 apparently fostered learners’ interaction in Economics albeit without a significant impact. The closeness centrality changed in Electrodynamics varied from that of Economics: upon the COVID-19 outbreak, closeness centrality was significantly different from other semesters. Communication between learners was closer and interaction was more effective. Electrodynamics course members’ social network proximity decreased rapidly after the pandemic. Learners’ communication lessened. In general, Economics course showed better interaction before the outbreak and was less affected by the pandemic; Electrodynamics course was more affected by the pandemic and showed different interaction characteristics at different periods of the pandemic.

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(Note: "****" indicates the significant distinction in closeness centrality between the two periods, otherwise no significant distinction).

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273016.g007

5. Discussion

We referred to discussion forums from several courses on the icourse.163 MOOC platform to compare online learning before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic via SNA and to delineate the pandemic’s effects on online courses. Only 33.3% of courses in our sample increased in terms of interaction during the pandemic; the scale of interaction did not rise in any courses thereafter. When the courses scale rose, the scope and frequency of interaction showed upward trends during the pandemic; and the clustering coefficient of natural science courses and social science courses differed: the coefficient for social science courses tended to rise whereas that for natural science courses generally declined. When the pandemic broke out, the interaction scale of a single natural science course decreased along with its interaction scope and frequency. The amount of interaction in most courses shrank rapidly during the pandemic and network members were not as active as they had been before. However, after the pandemic, some courses saw declining interaction but greater communication between members; interaction also became more frequent and deeper than before.

5.1 During the COVID-19 pandemic, the scale of interaction increased in only a few courses

The pandemic outbreak led to a rapid increase in the number of participants in most courses; however, the change in network scale was not significant. The scale of online interaction expanded swiftly in only a few courses; in others, the scale either did not change significantly or displayed a downward trend. After the pandemic, the interaction scale in most courses decreased quickly; the same pattern applied to communication between network members. Learners’ enthusiasm for online interaction reduced as the circumstances of the pandemic improved—potentially because, during the pandemic, China’s Ministry of Education declared “School’s Out, But Class’s On” policy. Major colleges and universities were encouraged to use the Internet and informational resources to provide learning support, hence the sudden increase in the number of participants and interaction in online courses [ 46 ]. After the pandemic, students’ enthusiasm for online learning gradually weakened, presumably due to easing of the pandemic [ 47 ]. More activities also transitioned from online to offline, which tempered learners’ online discussion. Research has shown that long-term online learning can even bore students [ 48 ].

Most courses’ interaction scale decreased significantly after the pandemic. First, teachers and students occupied separate spaces during the outbreak, had few opportunities for mutual cooperation and friendship, and lacked a sense of belonging [ 49 ]. Students’ enthusiasm for learning dissipated over time [ 50 ]. Second, some teachers were especially concerned about adapting in-person instructional materials for digital platforms; their pedagogical methods were ineffective, and they did not provide learning activities germane to student interaction [ 51 ]. Third, although teachers and students in remote areas were actively engaged in online learning, some students could not continue to participate in distance learning due to inadequate technology later in the outbreak [ 52 ].

5.2 Characteristics of online learning interaction during and after the COVID-19 pandemic

5.2.1 during the covid-19 pandemic, online interaction in most courses did not change significantly..

The interaction scale of only a few courses increased during the pandemic. The interaction scope and frequency of these courses climbed as well. Yet even as the degree of network interaction rose, course network density did not expand in all cases. The pandemic sparked a surge in the number of online learners and a rapid increase in network scale, but students found it difficult to interact with all learners. Yau pointed out that a greater network scale did not enrich the range of interaction between individuals; rather, the number of individuals who could interact directly was limited [ 53 ]. The internet facilitates interpersonal communication. However, not everyone has the time or ability to establish close ties with others [ 54 ].

In addition, social science courses and natural science courses in our sample revealed disparate trends in this regard: the clustering coefficient of social science courses increased and that of natural science courses decreased. Social science courses usually employ learning approaches distinct from those in natural science courses [ 55 ]. Social science courses emphasize critical and innovative thinking along with personal expression [ 56 ]. Natural science courses focus on practical skills, methods, and principles [ 57 ]. Therefore, the content of social science courses can spur large-scale discussion among learners. Some course evaluations indicated that the course content design was suboptimal as well: teachers paid close attention to knowledge transmission and much less to piquing students’ interest in learning. In addition, the thread topics that teachers posted were scarcely diversified and teachers’ questions lacked openness. These attributes could not spark active discussion among learners.

5.2.2 Online learning interaction declined after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most courses’ interaction scale and intensity decreased rapidly after the pandemic, but some did not change. Courses with a larger network scale did not continue to expand after the outbreak, and students’ enthusiasm for learning paled. The pandemic’s reduced severity also influenced the number of participants in online courses. Meanwhile, restored school order moved many learning activities from virtual to in-person spaces. Face-to-face learning has gradually replaced online learning, resulting in lower enrollment and less interaction in online courses. Prolonged online courses could have also led students to feel lonely and to lack a sense of belonging [ 58 ].

The scale of interaction in some courses did not change substantially after the pandemic yet learners’ connections became tighter. We hence recommend that teachers seize pandemic-related opportunities to design suitable activities. Additionally, instructors should promote student-teacher and student-student interaction, encourage students to actively participate online, and generally intensify the impact of online learning.

5.3 What are the characteristics of interaction in social science courses and natural science courses?

The level of interaction in Economics (a social science course) was significantly higher than that in Electrodynamics (a natural science course), and the small-world property in Economics increased as well. To boost online courses’ learning-related impacts, teachers can divide groups of learners based on the clustering coefficient and the average path length. Small groups of students may benefit teachers in several ways: to participate actively in activities intended to expand students’ knowledge, and to serve as key actors in these small groups. Cultivating students’ keenness to participate in class activities and self-management can also help teachers guide learner interaction and foster deep knowledge construction.

As evidenced by comments posted in the Electrodynamics course, we observed less interaction between students. Teachers also rarely urged students to contribute to conversations. These trends may have arisen because teachers and students were in different spaces. Teachers might have struggled to discern students’ interaction status. Teachers could also have failed to intervene in time, to design online learning activities that piqued learners’ interest, and to employ sound interactive theme planning and guidance. Teachers are often active in traditional classroom settings. Their roles are comparatively weakened online, such that they possess less control over instruction [ 59 ]. Online instruction also requires a stronger hand in learning: teachers should play a leading role in regulating network members’ interactive communication [ 60 ]. Teachers can guide learners to participate, help learners establish social networks, and heighten students’ interest in learning [ 61 ]. Teachers should attend to core members in online learning while also considering edge members; by doing so, all network members can be driven to share their knowledge and become more engaged. Finally, teachers and assistant teachers should help learners develop knowledge, exchange topic-related ideas, pose relevant questions during course discussions, and craft activities that enable learners to interact online [ 62 ]. These tactics can improve the effectiveness of online learning.

As described, network members displayed distinct interaction behavior in Economics and Electrodynamics courses. First, these courses varied in their difficulty: the social science course seemed easier to understand and focused on divergent thinking. Learners were often willing to express their views in comments and to ponder others’ perspectives [ 63 ]. The natural science course seemed more demanding and was oriented around logical thinking and skills [ 64 ]. Second, courses’ content differed. In general, social science courses favor the acquisition of declarative knowledge and creative knowledge compared with natural science courses. Social science courses also entertain open questions [ 65 ]. Natural science courses revolve around principle knowledge, strategic knowledge, and transfer knowledge [ 66 ]. Problems in these courses are normally more complicated than those in social science courses. Third, the indicators affecting students’ attitudes toward learning were unique. Guo et al. discovered that “teacher feedback” most strongly influenced students’ attitudes towards learning social science courses but had less impact on students in natural science courses [ 67 ]. Therefore, learners in social science courses likely expect more feedback from teachers and greater interaction with others.

6. Conclusion and future work

Our findings show that the network interaction scale of some online courses expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The network scale of most courses did not change significantly, demonstrating that the pandemic did not notably alter the scale of course interaction. Online learning interaction among course network members whose interaction scale increased also became more frequent during the pandemic. Once the outbreak was under control, although the scale of interaction declined, the level and scope of some courses’ interactive networks continued to rise; interaction was thus particularly effective in these cases. Overall, the pandemic appeared to have a relatively positive impact on online learning interaction. We considered a pair of courses in detail and found that Economics (a social science course) fared much better than Electrodynamics (a natural science course) in classroom interaction; learners were more willing to partake in-class activities, perhaps due to these courses’ unique characteristics. Brint et al. also came to similar conclusions [ 57 ].

This study was intended to be rigorous. Even so, several constraints can be addressed in future work. The first limitation involves our sample: we focused on a select set of courses hosted on China’s icourse.163 MOOC platform. Future studies should involve an expansive collection of courses to provide a more holistic understanding of how the pandemic has influenced online interaction. Second, we only explored the interactive relationship between learners and did not analyze interactive content. More in-depth content analysis should be carried out in subsequent research. All in all, the emergence of COVID-19 has provided a new path for online learning and has reshaped the distance learning landscape. To cope with associated challenges, educational practitioners will need to continue innovating in online instructional design, strengthen related pedagogy, optimize online learning conditions, and bolster teachers’ and students’ competence in online learning.

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Managing attention and distractibility in online learning

Research-backed answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding attention and distractibility in the virtual classroom.

  • Learning and Memory
  • Perception and Attention
  • Schools and Classrooms

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This year, as COVID-19 disrupted traditional K–12 education, even the most experienced teachers felt suddenly thrown back into their first day, or first years, of teaching. Appearing in their virtual classrooms, many teachers found themselves looking at an array of squares on a screen, some with students looking back, some with a bare desktop and chair, some missing entirely. For many, this new environment felt foreign as their go-to strategies in the classroom setting did not seem to translate readily online. As a result, teachers were left with many questions and few clear answers.

Although the existing literature specific to virtual learning environments is limited, there is a robust research base on attention, engagement, distractibility, and learning in general, much of which can be adapted and applied in virtual settings. Below, we offer research-backed answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding attention and distractibility in the virtual classroom.

What do attention and engagement look like in an online environment?

In face-to-face settings, teachers typically rely on perceiving and responding to overt student behaviors as evidence of their attention. In an online setting, teachers may be able to see only a student’s head and shoulders at most, which limits the information available. In these circumstances, teachers must turn to other sources of input. In their 2011 book, “Creating the Opportunity to Learn,” Boykin and Noguera offer the following description for behavioral, cognitive, and affective engagement:

Behavioral engagement is “on task behavior.” In a virtual environment, on task behavior may include students’ commenting in the chat function, asking and answering questions, seeking and providing help to peers, and participating in collaborative discussions. Cognitive engagement refers to effort aimed at understanding complex material or learning challenging skills. In a virtual environment, cognitive engagement may include students showing that they are willing and able to take on a task even if it is challenging ( Corno & Mandinach, 1983 ), the extent to which they persist on a task regardless of its difficulty, and the strategies they employ to assist them while learning (Richardson & Newby, 2006 ). Affective engagement refers to students’ emotional reactions including showing interest in, curiosity about, or enjoyment of a task, communicating a positive attitude, and expressing the value, importance, or personal relevance of a task (Boykin & Noguera, 2011). When students are not affectively engaged, they are likely to show boredom, stress, or anxiety.

How do I know my students are paying attention and engaged while I’m teaching online or with online work?

How teachers know if their students are paying attention and engaged is an issue of assessment. The classroom assessment process begins with asking yourself, “What do I want to know about my students’ engagement?” To ensure representativeness, teachers can include questions on each of the types of engagement discussed previously. For example, one might ask, “Are my students persisting even when they encounter difficult work?” Or, “Do my students appear to be interested during class-wide discussions?”

After teachers establish what they want to know, the next step is to determine what might count as evidence to answer that particular question. For example, teachers may look for evidence of student persistence by observing what students do when they encounter hurdles or stumbling blocks. If students continue steadily working and adjust and adapt their plans as needed, it might serve as evidence of persistence.

Knowing what evidence to collect, however, is only half the battle. As teachers, it is also important to have a host of strategies and techniques to collect such evidence. Classroom assessment does little to affect student learning unless teachers use the information from assessment events to inform their next teaching steps or to craft feedback that moves learning forward. That is why it is imperative that teachers draw on their knowledge of the curriculum and typical learning trajectories to inform teaching and learning.

How can I structure my online teaching to best engage my students, and what strategies can I use to reengage students who are distracted?

Many of the strategies that teachers use to increase student engagement in face-to-face classrooms can also be adapted to structure online teaching. For example, it is important to recognize the types of learning for which synchronous (active online) and asynchronous (offline) modalities are advantageous and to use each modality strategically.

The synchronous format is useful for introducing new topics, discussing complex ideas and challenging work, and promoting collaborative learning and student-teacher interactions. One of the disadvantages of the synchronous format is that students might find it difficult to remain engaged for long durations, and teachers should expect the duration of engagement to drop with age—ninth-graders will be able to stay engaged longer than fifth-graders, fifth-graders longer than third-graders, and so on.

Asynchronous learning could be used to reinforce what was taught and discussed during synchronous sessions and for tasks and activities that can be self-paced and that might require more time to complete, such as long-term projects. Because students work independently during asynchronous learning, it is important to break up activities into smaller chunks as well as to vary the types of activities, such as answering questions after watching a brief video or writing a short essay after reading assigned pages of a book. Asynchronous learning also has the advantage of promoting student self-regulation and sense of control over the learning process, factors known to increase student engagement (Fredricks et al., 2004).

Finally, students are more likely to be engaged if they feel respected and valued by their teachers and peers, and if they feel that they belong to the classroom and school community. Teachers can reinforce student engagement with praise or by allowing students to do a fun activity. In addition, establishing specific times during the week when students can collaborate on a creative activity, watch a short and lighthearted video together, or just talk could go a long way to creating positive bonds and an engaged community in a virtual environment.

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Top 6 Questions People Ask About Online Learning

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Since the invention of the internet, we have witnessed a huge change in the accessibility and flexibility of higher education. Not only can students earn their degrees at a distance and on their own schedule but they can also complete certifications and trade programs with more ease than ever before.

If you’re considering online classes as a means to achieving your goals, you likely have questions. Here are some of the most common ones, with answers!

What Is Online Learning?

So, just what is online learning? This term refers to education that takes place in a completely virtual environment using an internet connection and a computer or device to connect to the school. In the online "classroom," you can do all the same things that in-person students do, such as:

  • Listening to lectures
  • Answering questions from a professor
  • Completing readings
  • Turning in assignments
  • Taking quizzes and tests
  • Meeting as a group

Some schools, programs, or courses combine online learning with in-person learning experiences. This model is known as "hybrid education," wherein students participate online most of the time. However, when learning objectives call for hands-on experience (say, practicing skills for a health profession or laboratory experiments), they can head to campus.

That said, many programs allow their students to complete the entire curriculum virtually. Degrees such as a Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, for example, may not call for in-person learning at all. You can always contact admissions or the specific department if you want to learn more about delivery format.

Why Online Learning Is Good for Students

Despite the widespread accessibility of remote education, some students remain skeptical about online classes. Are you really learning if there’s not a professor present at the front of a lecture hall? Can you really learn the skills you need without the in-person interaction between students and faculty?

Ease and Accessibility

While some people feel online education lacks the intimacy and immediacy of a "real" classroom, it offers an educational channel to students who might otherwise not have the time or resources to attend. Online access has made it possible for students to enroll and participate in online classes with greater ease, from nearly anywhere, in a way that fits their schedules.

Affordability

Online courses are usually more affordable as well. According to the Education Data Initiative , an online degree is $36,595 cheaper than an in-person degree when the cost of tuition and attendance are compared. The average cost of attending a private university is $129,800 for an in-person degree and only $60,593 for an online degree.

It’s also estimated that students who commute to college for in-person classes pay $1,360 per year in transportation costs that an online student wouldn’t have to pay. Add in factors such as cheaper meals at home and more time to work, and it’s not hard to see why many students opt for online learning.

Top Questions About Online Learning

Despite the benefits, you likely still have some questions about online learning. Let’s take a look at six of the most common.

1. Are You Able to Earn Your Degree Completely Online? Yes, many (but not all) schools do offer this as an option. We’re not just talking about certificates or minors, either.

For instance, you can earn a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering from U of M Online. If you complete the entire program virtually, you will pay in-state tuition costs from anywhere in the United States – a major bonus. A good school should offer you a searchable course catalog to compare options and view which have a required on-campus component.

2. How Long Does It Take to Earn a Degree Online? Most online programs mirror their in-person counterparts in terms of how long it takes to earn the degree. From certificates and minors to bachelor’s or master’s degrees, you’re looking at roughly the same timeline for equivalent programs. Some programs offer students the flexibility for part time options if that is needed to accommodate work and family responsibilities.

Some schools or programs may limit how quickly you can move through the material. However, given the freedom and flexibility of online learning, it’s possible you can complete more coursework in less time than you could on campus. Talk to your admissions officer or program coordinator about specifics.

When first researching your options, you can again turn to the searchable course catalog. On each degree page, you should find the recommended timeline clearly listed.

3. Is an Online Degree Viewed Differently Than a Traditional Degree? Among the most common and pressing questions for online learning is whether future employers view online degrees with skepticism. The answer is an emphatic "no." Most online programs appear on your transcript the same as on-campus programs would.

You may also wonder if an online program will impact your plans for a higher degree later. As long as your degree is from an accredited institution, it won’t harm your chances of acceptance.

4. What Are Some Benefits of Online Learning? When you choose to learn online, you can:

  • Study more, due to the lack of commuting to, from, and around campus
  • Potentially take more classes, again because of the time savings
  • Get more immediate feedback from professors on assignments
  • Leverage the online resources that come with your course portal
  • Spend less money on your degree overall
  • Continue working or caring for family while going to school

5. Do Instructors Offer Help and Support to Students? Instructors are required to give the same amount of time and energy to their online classes as they do to in-person groups. In fact, many professors are enthusiastic about virtual learning because it means they have more flexibility and don’t have to commute either.

6. Can Students Have Success and Excel in Online Learning? Lastly, can you learn new skills, attain knowledge, and become successful in online learning? Unequivocally, the answer is yes! Online degree programs still afford you tutoring and career resources as well as full access to academic resources such as the library .

Plus, you will have the ability to transfer credits either to or from the degree program, just as you would with an on-campus one. In other words, you will find yourself and your goals in no way hampered by taking the online approach.

Online Learning

In summary, online learning offers you a ton of freedom and savings. It allows you to complete your work anywhere, from the office to the living room to on the road. And you can rest assured that you’ll get the same level of professorial support as you would from an on-campus program, as well as a degree that’s worth just as much.

Learn More, Today

Ready to learn more? Reach out to U of M Online to ask questions or get information about specific programs today!

  • Cost of Online Education vs. Traditional Education
  • The top 5 questions people ask about online learning
  • https://online.umn.edu/programs-search
  • https://online.umn.edu/tuition-fees-and-financial-aid
  • https://online.umn.edu/story/academic-tutoring-and-career-resources
  • https://online.umn.edu/story/u-m-libraries
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FAQs: How Online Courses Work

research questions for online learning

The Benefits of Online Education

How online education works.

  • The Effectiveness of Online Education

Choosing Online Degree Programs

Technical skills and considerations, paying for online degree programs.

Recent reports detail just how quickly colleges adopted online learning. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, university and student participation in online education is at an all-time high. Even some of the largest and most prestigious universities now offer online degrees. Despite its growing popularity, online education is still relatively new, and many students and academics are completely unacquainted with it. Questions and concerns are normal. This page addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about online degree programs. All answers are thoroughly researched; we include links to relevant studies whenever possible.

Question: What are some of the advantages of attending college online?

[Answer] Online education is known for its flexibility, but studies have identified several additional benefits of attending class online. Among them:

  • Communication : Many students are more comfortable engaging in meaningful discussions online than in a classroom. These students might have hearing or speech impairments; speak different languages; have severe social anxiety; or simply need more time to organize their thoughts.
  • Personalized learning : Not all students learn the same way. Web-based learning allows instructors to deliver the same content using different media, like videos or simulations, personalizing learning. Online classes providing round-the-clock access to materials and lectures also let students study when they feel most focused and engaged.
  • Accessibility : Online programs transcend time, geographic, and other barriers to higher education. This can be helpful for those who work full-time, live in remote regions, or serve in the military.
  • Adaptability : Learning management systems that integrate text-to-speech and other adaptive technologies support learners with physical, behavioral, and learning challenges.
  • Efficiency : Studies show online students tend to achieve the same learning results in half the time as classroom-based students.
  • Engagement : Online instructors can use games, social media, virtual badges, and other engaging technologies to motivate students and enhance learning.

Question: How does online education work on a day-to-day basis?

[Answer] Instructional methods, course requirements, and learning technologies can vary significantly from one online program to the next, but the vast bulk of them use a learning management system (LMS) to deliver lectures and materials, monitor student progress, assess comprehension, and accept student work. LMS providers design these platforms to accommodate a multitude of instructor needs and preferences. While some courses deliver live lectures using video conferencing tools, others allow students to download pre-recorded lectures and use message boards to discuss topics. Instructors may also incorporate simulations, games, and other engagement-boosters to enhance learning. Students should research individual programs to find out how and when they would report to class; how lectures and materials are delivered; how and how much they would collaborate with faculty and peers; and other important details. We address many of these instructional methods and LMS capabilities elsewhere in this guide.

Question: Can you really earn online degrees in hands-on fields like nursing and engineering?

[Answer] Yes and no. While schools do offer online and hybrid programs in these disciplines, students must usually meet additional face-to-face training requirements. Schools usually establish these requirements with convenience in mind. For example, students in fields like nursing, teaching, and social work may be required to complete supervised fieldwork or clinical placements, but do so through local schools, hospitals/clinics, and other organizations. For example, students enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Engineers PRODUCED in Virginia program can complete all their engineering classes online in a live format while gaining practical experience through strategic internships with employers across the state. Some online programs do require students to complete on-campus training, seminars and assessments, but visits are often designed to minimize cost and travel. Students should consider these requirements when researching programs.

The Effectiveness and Credibility of Online Education

Question: is online education as effective as face-to-face instruction.

[Answer] Online education may seem relatively new, but years of research suggests it can be just as effective as traditional coursework, and often more so. According to a U.S. Department of Education analysis of more than 1,000 learning studies, online students tend to outperform classroom-based students across most disciplines and demographics. Another major review published the same year found that online students had the advantage 70 percent of the time, a gap authors projected would only widen as programs and technologies evolve.

While these reports list several plausible reasons students might learn more effectively online—that they have more control over their studies, or more opportunities for reflection—medium is only one of many factors that influence outcomes. Successful online students tend to be organized self-starters who can complete their work without reporting to a traditional classroom. Learning styles and preferences matter, too. Prospective students should research programs carefully to identify which ones offer the best chance of success.

Question: Do employers accept online degrees?

[Answer] All new learning innovations are met with some degree of scrutiny, but skepticism subsides as methods become more mainstream. Such is the case for online learning. Studies indicate employers who are familiar with online degrees tend to view them more favorably, and more employers are acquainted with them than ever before. The majority of colleges now offer online degrees, including most public, not-for-profit, and Ivy League universities. Online learning is also increasingly prevalent in the workplace as more companies invest in web-based employee training and development programs.

Question: Is online education more conducive to cheating?

[Answer] The concern that online students cheat more than traditional students is perhaps misplaced. When researchers at Marshall University conducted a study to measure the prevalence of cheating in online and classroom-based courses, they concluded, “somewhat surprisingly, the results showed higher rates of academic dishonesty in live courses.” The authors suggest the social familiarity of students in a classroom setting may lessen their sense of moral obligation.

Another reason cheating is less common in online programs is that colleges have adopted strict anti-cheating protocols and technologies. According to a report published by the Online Learning Consortium, some online courses require students to report to proctored testing facilities to complete exams, though virtual proctoring using shared screens and webcams is increasingly popular. Sophisticated identity verification tools like biometric analysis and facial recognition software are another way these schools combat cheating. Instructors often implement their own anti-cheating measures, too, like running research papers through plagiarism-detection programs or incorporating challenge-based questions in quizzes and exams. When combined, these measures can reduce academic dishonesty significantly.

In an interview with OnlineEducation.com, Dr. Susan Aldridge, president of Drexel University Online, discussed the overall approach many universities take to curbing cheating–an approach that includes both technical and policy-based prevention strategies.

“Like most online higher education providers, Drexel University employs a three-pronged approach to maintaining academic integrity among its virtual students,” said Dr. Aldridge. “We create solid barriers to cheating, while also making every effort to identify and sanction it as it occurs or directly after the fact. At the same time, we foster a principled community of inquiry that, in turn, motivates students to act in ethical ways. So with this triad in mind, we have implemented more than a few strategies and systems to ensure academic integrity.”

Question: How do I know if online education is right for me?

[Answer] Choosing the right degree program takes time and careful research no matter how one intends to study. Learning styles, goals, and programs always vary, but students considering online colleges must consider technical skills, ability to self-motivate, and other factors specific to the medium. A number of colleges and universities have developed assessments to help prospective students determine whether they are prepared for online learning. You can access a compilation of assessments from many different colleges online. Online course demos and trials can also be helpful, particularly if they are offered by schools of interest. Students can call online colleges and ask to speak an admissions representative who can clarify additional requirements and expectations.

Question: How do I know if an online degree program is credible?

[Answer] As with traditional colleges, some online schools are considered more credible than others. Reputation, post-graduation employment statistics, and enrollment numbers are not always reliable indicators of quality, which is why many experts advise students to look for accredited schools. In order for an online college to be accredited, a third-party organization must review its practices, finances, instructors, and other important criteria and certify that they meet certain quality standards. The certifying organization matters, too, since accreditation is only as reliable as the agency that grants it. Students should confirm online programs’ accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation before submitting their applications.

Online Student Support Services

Question: do online schools offer the same student support services as traditional colleges.

[Answer] Colleges and universities tend to offer online students many of the same support services as campus-based students, though they may be administered differently. Instead of going to a campus library, online students may log in to virtual libraries stocked with digital materials, or work with research librarians by phone or email. Tutoring, academic advising, and career services might rely on video conferencing software, virtual meeting rooms, and other collaborative technologies. Some online colleges offer non-academic student support services as well. For example, Western Governor University’s Student Assistance Program provides online students with 24/7 access to personal counseling, legal advice, and financial consulting services. A list of student support services is usually readily available on online colleges’ websites.

Question: What technical skills do online students need?

[Answer] Online learning platforms are typically designed to be as user-friendly as possible: intuitive controls, clear instructions, and tutorials guide students through new tasks. However, students still need basic computer skills to access and navigate these programs. These skills include: using a keyboard and a mouse; running computer programs; using the Internet; sending and receiving email; using word processing programs; and using forums and other collaborative tools. Most online programs publish such requirements on their websites. If not, an admissions adviser can help.

Students who do not meet a program’s basic technical skills requirements are not without recourse. Online colleges frequently offer classes and simulations that help students establish computer literacy before beginning their studies. Microsoft’s online digital literacy curriculum is one free resource.

Question: What technology requirements must online students meet? What if they do not meet them?

[Answer] Technical requirements vary from one online degree program to the next, but most students need at minimum high-speed Internet access, a keyboard, and a computer capable of running specified online learning software. Courses using identity verification tools and voice- or web-conferencing software require webcams and microphones. Scanners and printers help, too. While online schools increasingly offer mobile apps for learning on-the-go, smartphones and tablets alone may not be sufficient.

Most online colleges list minimum technology requirements on their websites. Students who do not meet these requirements should contact schools directly to inquire about programs that can help. Some online schools lend or provide laptops, netbooks, or tablets for little to no cost, though students must generally return them right away if they withdraw from courses. Other colleges may offer grants and scholarships to help cover technical costs for students who qualify.

Question: Are online students eligible for financial aid?

[Answer] Qualifying online students enrolled in online degree programs are eligible for many of the same loans, scholarships, and grants as traditional campus-based students. They are also free to apply for federal and state financial aid so long as they:

  • Attend online programs accredited by an organization recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.
  • Attend online schools that are authorized to operate in their state of residence.
  • Meet all additional application requirements, including those related to legal status, citizenship, age, and educational attainment.
  • Submit applications and all supporting materials by their deadlines.

Students can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to review all eligibility requirements and deadlines, and to submit their Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Note that many states, colleges, and organizations use FAFSA to determine students’ eligibility for other types of aid, including grants, scholarships, and loans. Students can contact prospective schools directly to speak with financial aid advisors.

Disclaimer: Financial aid is never guaranteed, even among eligible online students. Contact colleges and universities directly to clarify their policies

Question: Can students use military education benefits to pay for online education?

[Answer] Active-duty and veteran military service-members can typically apply their military education benefits toward an online degree, though they must still meet many of the same eligibility requirements detailed in the previous answer. Many state-level benefits have additional residency requirements. Most colleges have whole offices dedicated to helping these students understand and use their benefits effectively. They may also clarify applicable aid programs and requirements on their official websites. When in doubt, students should contact schools directly or report to the nearest Department of Veteran Affairs to learn more about their options.

" Educational Benefits of Online Learning ," Blackboard Learning, Presented by California Polytechnic State University, San Louis Obispo

" Four Proven Advantages of Online Learning (That are NOT the Cost, Accessibility or Flexibility) , Coursera Blog, Coursera

" Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies ," U.S. Department of Education

" Twenty years of research on the academic performance differences between traditional and distance learning ," M. Sachar, Y. Neumann, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Merlot

" The Market Value of Online Degrees as a Credible Credential ," Calvin D. Foggle, Devonda Elliott, accessed via New York University

" Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses ?" George Watson, James Sottile, accessed via the University of Georga

" Student Identity Verification Tools and Live Proctoring in Accordance With Regulations to Combat Academic Dishonesty in Distance Education ," Vincent Termini, Franklin Hayes, Online Learning Consortium

" Student Readiness for Online Learning ," G. Hanley, Merlot

" Recognized Accrediting Organizations ," Council for Higher Education Accreditation  

" Digital Literacy ," Microsoft, Inc.  

" Free Application for Federal Student Aid ," Office of Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education

Online Education Guide

  • Expert Advice for Online Students
  • Instructional Design in Online Programs
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Online Student Trends and Success Factors
  • Online Teaching Methods
  • Student Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Student Services for Online Learners

Grad Coach

Research Topics & Ideas: Education

170+ Research Ideas To Fast-Track Your Project

Topic Kickstarter: Research topics in education

If you’re just starting out exploring education-related topics for your dissertation, thesis or research project, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll help kickstart your research topic ideation process by providing a hearty list of research topics and ideas , including examples from actual dissertations and theses..

PS – This is just the start…

We know it’s exciting to run through a list of research topics, but please keep in mind that this list is just a starting point . To develop a suitable education-related research topic, you’ll need to identify a clear and convincing research gap , and a viable plan of action to fill that gap.

If this sounds foreign to you, check out our free research topic webinar that explores how to find and refine a high-quality research topic, from scratch. Alternatively, if you’d like hands-on help, consider our 1-on-1 coaching service .

Overview: Education Research Topics

  • How to find a research topic (video)
  • List of 50+ education-related research topics/ideas
  • List of 120+ level-specific research topics 
  • Examples of actual dissertation topics in education
  • Tips to fast-track your topic ideation (video)
  • Free Webinar : Topic Ideation 101
  • Where to get extra help

Education-Related Research Topics & Ideas

Below you’ll find a list of education-related research topics and idea kickstarters. These are fairly broad and flexible to various contexts, so keep in mind that you will need to refine them a little. Nevertheless, they should inspire some ideas for your project.

  • The impact of school funding on student achievement
  • The effects of social and emotional learning on student well-being
  • The effects of parental involvement on student behaviour
  • The impact of teacher training on student learning
  • The impact of classroom design on student learning
  • The impact of poverty on education
  • The use of student data to inform instruction
  • The role of parental involvement in education
  • The effects of mindfulness practices in the classroom
  • The use of technology in the classroom
  • The role of critical thinking in education
  • The use of formative and summative assessments in the classroom
  • The use of differentiated instruction in the classroom
  • The use of gamification in education
  • The effects of teacher burnout on student learning
  • The impact of school leadership on student achievement
  • The effects of teacher diversity on student outcomes
  • The role of teacher collaboration in improving student outcomes
  • The implementation of blended and online learning
  • The effects of teacher accountability on student achievement
  • The effects of standardized testing on student learning
  • The effects of classroom management on student behaviour
  • The effects of school culture on student achievement
  • The use of student-centred learning in the classroom
  • The impact of teacher-student relationships on student outcomes
  • The achievement gap in minority and low-income students
  • The use of culturally responsive teaching in the classroom
  • The impact of teacher professional development on student learning
  • The use of project-based learning in the classroom
  • The effects of teacher expectations on student achievement
  • The use of adaptive learning technology in the classroom
  • The impact of teacher turnover on student learning
  • The effects of teacher recruitment and retention on student learning
  • The impact of early childhood education on later academic success
  • The impact of parental involvement on student engagement
  • The use of positive reinforcement in education
  • The impact of school climate on student engagement
  • The role of STEM education in preparing students for the workforce
  • The effects of school choice on student achievement
  • The use of technology in the form of online tutoring

Level-Specific Research Topics

Looking for research topics for a specific level of education? We’ve got you covered. Below you can find research topic ideas for primary, secondary and tertiary-level education contexts. Click the relevant level to view the respective list.

Research Topics: Pick An Education Level

Primary education.

  • Investigating the effects of peer tutoring on academic achievement in primary school
  • Exploring the benefits of mindfulness practices in primary school classrooms
  • Examining the effects of different teaching strategies on primary school students’ problem-solving skills
  • The use of storytelling as a teaching strategy in primary school literacy instruction
  • The role of cultural diversity in promoting tolerance and understanding in primary schools
  • The impact of character education programs on moral development in primary school students
  • Investigating the use of technology in enhancing primary school mathematics education
  • The impact of inclusive curriculum on promoting equity and diversity in primary schools
  • The impact of outdoor education programs on environmental awareness in primary school students
  • The influence of school climate on student motivation and engagement in primary schools
  • Investigating the effects of early literacy interventions on reading comprehension in primary school students
  • The impact of parental involvement in school decision-making processes on student achievement in primary schools
  • Exploring the benefits of inclusive education for students with special needs in primary schools
  • Investigating the effects of teacher-student feedback on academic motivation in primary schools
  • The role of technology in developing digital literacy skills in primary school students
  • Effective strategies for fostering a growth mindset in primary school students
  • Investigating the role of parental support in reducing academic stress in primary school children
  • The role of arts education in fostering creativity and self-expression in primary school students
  • Examining the effects of early childhood education programs on primary school readiness
  • Examining the effects of homework on primary school students’ academic performance
  • The role of formative assessment in improving learning outcomes in primary school classrooms
  • The impact of teacher-student relationships on academic outcomes in primary school
  • Investigating the effects of classroom environment on student behavior and learning outcomes in primary schools
  • Investigating the role of creativity and imagination in primary school curriculum
  • The impact of nutrition and healthy eating programs on academic performance in primary schools
  • The impact of social-emotional learning programs on primary school students’ well-being and academic performance
  • The role of parental involvement in academic achievement of primary school children
  • Examining the effects of classroom management strategies on student behavior in primary school
  • The role of school leadership in creating a positive school climate Exploring the benefits of bilingual education in primary schools
  • The effectiveness of project-based learning in developing critical thinking skills in primary school students
  • The role of inquiry-based learning in fostering curiosity and critical thinking in primary school students
  • The effects of class size on student engagement and achievement in primary schools
  • Investigating the effects of recess and physical activity breaks on attention and learning in primary school
  • Exploring the benefits of outdoor play in developing gross motor skills in primary school children
  • The effects of educational field trips on knowledge retention in primary school students
  • Examining the effects of inclusive classroom practices on students’ attitudes towards diversity in primary schools
  • The impact of parental involvement in homework on primary school students’ academic achievement
  • Investigating the effectiveness of different assessment methods in primary school classrooms
  • The influence of physical activity and exercise on cognitive development in primary school children
  • Exploring the benefits of cooperative learning in promoting social skills in primary school students

Secondary Education

  • Investigating the effects of school discipline policies on student behavior and academic success in secondary education
  • The role of social media in enhancing communication and collaboration among secondary school students
  • The impact of school leadership on teacher effectiveness and student outcomes in secondary schools
  • Investigating the effects of technology integration on teaching and learning in secondary education
  • Exploring the benefits of interdisciplinary instruction in promoting critical thinking skills in secondary schools
  • The impact of arts education on creativity and self-expression in secondary school students
  • The effectiveness of flipped classrooms in promoting student learning in secondary education
  • The role of career guidance programs in preparing secondary school students for future employment
  • Investigating the effects of student-centered learning approaches on student autonomy and academic success in secondary schools
  • The impact of socio-economic factors on educational attainment in secondary education
  • Investigating the impact of project-based learning on student engagement and academic achievement in secondary schools
  • Investigating the effects of multicultural education on cultural understanding and tolerance in secondary schools
  • The influence of standardized testing on teaching practices and student learning in secondary education
  • Investigating the effects of classroom management strategies on student behavior and academic engagement in secondary education
  • The influence of teacher professional development on instructional practices and student outcomes in secondary schools
  • The role of extracurricular activities in promoting holistic development and well-roundedness in secondary school students
  • Investigating the effects of blended learning models on student engagement and achievement in secondary education
  • The role of physical education in promoting physical health and well-being among secondary school students
  • Investigating the effects of gender on academic achievement and career aspirations in secondary education
  • Exploring the benefits of multicultural literature in promoting cultural awareness and empathy among secondary school students
  • The impact of school counseling services on student mental health and well-being in secondary schools
  • Exploring the benefits of vocational education and training in preparing secondary school students for the workforce
  • The role of digital literacy in preparing secondary school students for the digital age
  • The influence of parental involvement on academic success and well-being of secondary school students
  • The impact of social-emotional learning programs on secondary school students’ well-being and academic success
  • The role of character education in fostering ethical and responsible behavior in secondary school students
  • Examining the effects of digital citizenship education on responsible and ethical technology use among secondary school students
  • The impact of parental involvement in school decision-making processes on student outcomes in secondary schools
  • The role of educational technology in promoting personalized learning experiences in secondary schools
  • The impact of inclusive education on the social and academic outcomes of students with disabilities in secondary schools
  • The influence of parental support on academic motivation and achievement in secondary education
  • The role of school climate in promoting positive behavior and well-being among secondary school students
  • Examining the effects of peer mentoring programs on academic achievement and social-emotional development in secondary schools
  • Examining the effects of teacher-student relationships on student motivation and achievement in secondary schools
  • Exploring the benefits of service-learning programs in promoting civic engagement among secondary school students
  • The impact of educational policies on educational equity and access in secondary education
  • Examining the effects of homework on academic achievement and student well-being in secondary education
  • Investigating the effects of different assessment methods on student performance in secondary schools
  • Examining the effects of single-sex education on academic performance and gender stereotypes in secondary schools
  • The role of mentoring programs in supporting the transition from secondary to post-secondary education

Tertiary Education

  • The role of student support services in promoting academic success and well-being in higher education
  • The impact of internationalization initiatives on students’ intercultural competence and global perspectives in tertiary education
  • Investigating the effects of active learning classrooms and learning spaces on student engagement and learning outcomes in tertiary education
  • Exploring the benefits of service-learning experiences in fostering civic engagement and social responsibility in higher education
  • The influence of learning communities and collaborative learning environments on student academic and social integration in higher education
  • Exploring the benefits of undergraduate research experiences in fostering critical thinking and scientific inquiry skills
  • Investigating the effects of academic advising and mentoring on student retention and degree completion in higher education
  • The role of student engagement and involvement in co-curricular activities on holistic student development in higher education
  • The impact of multicultural education on fostering cultural competence and diversity appreciation in higher education
  • The role of internships and work-integrated learning experiences in enhancing students’ employability and career outcomes
  • Examining the effects of assessment and feedback practices on student learning and academic achievement in tertiary education
  • The influence of faculty professional development on instructional practices and student outcomes in tertiary education
  • The influence of faculty-student relationships on student success and well-being in tertiary education
  • The impact of college transition programs on students’ academic and social adjustment to higher education
  • The impact of online learning platforms on student learning outcomes in higher education
  • The impact of financial aid and scholarships on access and persistence in higher education
  • The influence of student leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities on personal development and campus engagement
  • Exploring the benefits of competency-based education in developing job-specific skills in tertiary students
  • Examining the effects of flipped classroom models on student learning and retention in higher education
  • Exploring the benefits of online collaboration and virtual team projects in developing teamwork skills in tertiary students
  • Investigating the effects of diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus climate and student experiences in tertiary education
  • The influence of study abroad programs on intercultural competence and global perspectives of college students
  • Investigating the effects of peer mentoring and tutoring programs on student retention and academic performance in tertiary education
  • Investigating the effectiveness of active learning strategies in promoting student engagement and achievement in tertiary education
  • Investigating the effects of blended learning models and hybrid courses on student learning and satisfaction in higher education
  • The role of digital literacy and information literacy skills in supporting student success in the digital age
  • Investigating the effects of experiential learning opportunities on career readiness and employability of college students
  • The impact of e-portfolios on student reflection, self-assessment, and showcasing of learning in higher education
  • The role of technology in enhancing collaborative learning experiences in tertiary classrooms
  • The impact of research opportunities on undergraduate student engagement and pursuit of advanced degrees
  • Examining the effects of competency-based assessment on measuring student learning and achievement in tertiary education
  • Examining the effects of interdisciplinary programs and courses on critical thinking and problem-solving skills in college students
  • The role of inclusive education and accessibility in promoting equitable learning experiences for diverse student populations
  • The role of career counseling and guidance in supporting students’ career decision-making in tertiary education
  • The influence of faculty diversity and representation on student success and inclusive learning environments in higher education

Research topic idea mega list

Education-Related Dissertations & Theses

While the ideas we’ve presented above are a decent starting point for finding a research topic in education, they are fairly generic and non-specific. So, it helps to look at actual dissertations and theses in the education space to see how this all comes together in practice.

Below, we’ve included a selection of education-related research projects to help refine your thinking. These are actual dissertations and theses, written as part of Master’s and PhD-level programs, so they can provide some useful insight as to what a research topic looks like in practice.

  • From Rural to Urban: Education Conditions of Migrant Children in China (Wang, 2019)
  • Energy Renovation While Learning English: A Guidebook for Elementary ESL Teachers (Yang, 2019)
  • A Reanalyses of Intercorrelational Matrices of Visual and Verbal Learners’ Abilities, Cognitive Styles, and Learning Preferences (Fox, 2020)
  • A study of the elementary math program utilized by a mid-Missouri school district (Barabas, 2020)
  • Instructor formative assessment practices in virtual learning environments : a posthumanist sociomaterial perspective (Burcks, 2019)
  • Higher education students services: a qualitative study of two mid-size universities’ direct exchange programs (Kinde, 2020)
  • Exploring editorial leadership : a qualitative study of scholastic journalism advisers teaching leadership in Missouri secondary schools (Lewis, 2020)
  • Selling the virtual university: a multimodal discourse analysis of marketing for online learning (Ludwig, 2020)
  • Advocacy and accountability in school counselling: assessing the use of data as related to professional self-efficacy (Matthews, 2020)
  • The use of an application screening assessment as a predictor of teaching retention at a midwestern, K-12, public school district (Scarbrough, 2020)
  • Core values driving sustained elite performance cultures (Beiner, 2020)
  • Educative features of upper elementary Eureka math curriculum (Dwiggins, 2020)
  • How female principals nurture adult learning opportunities in successful high schools with challenging student demographics (Woodward, 2020)
  • The disproportionality of Black Males in Special Education: A Case Study Analysis of Educator Perceptions in a Southeastern Urban High School (McCrae, 2021)

As you can see, these research topics are a lot more focused than the generic topic ideas we presented earlier. So, in order for you to develop a high-quality research topic, you’ll need to get specific and laser-focused on a specific context with specific variables of interest.  In the video below, we explore some other important things you’ll need to consider when crafting your research topic.

Get 1-On-1 Help

If you’re still unsure about how to find a quality research topic within education, check out our Research Topic Kickstarter service, which is the perfect starting point for developing a unique, well-justified research topic.

Research Topic Kickstarter - Need Help Finding A Research Topic?

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66 Comments

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You can find our list of nursing-related research topic ideas here: https://gradcoach.com/research-topics-nursing/

FOSU DORIS

Write on action research topic, using guidance and counseling to address unwanted teenage pregnancy in school

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Mercedes Bunsie

parental involvement and students academic performance

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Science education topics?

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How about School management and supervision pls.?

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NKWAIN Chia Charles

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Nkwain Chia Charles

Kindly help me with the research questions on the topic” Effects of workplace conflict on the employees’ job performance”. The effects can be applicable in every institution,enterprise or organisation.

Kelvin Kells Grant

Greetings, I am a student majoring in Sociology and minoring in Public Administration. I’m considering any recommended research topic in the field of Sociology.

Sulemana Alhassan

I’m a student pursuing Mphil in Basic education and I’m considering any recommended research proposal topic in my field of study

Cristine

Research Defense for students in senior high

Kupoluyi Regina

Kindly help me with a research topic in educational psychology. Ph.D level. Thank you.

Project-based learning is a teaching/learning type,if well applied in a classroom setting will yield serious positive impact. What can a teacher do to implement this in a disadvantaged zone like “North West Region of Cameroon ( hinterland) where war has brought about prolonged and untold sufferings on the indegins?

Damaris Nzoka

I wish to get help on topics of research on educational administration

I wish to get help on topics of research on educational administration PhD level

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William AU Mill

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D.Newlands PhD.

Look at British Library as they keep a copy of all PhDs in the UK Core.ac.uk to access Open University and 6 other university e-archives, pdf downloads mostly available, all free.

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please i need a proposed thesis project regardging computer science

also916

Greetings and Regards I am a doctoral student in the field of philosophy of education. I am looking for a new topic for my thesis. Because of my work in the elementary school, I am looking for a topic that is from the field of elementary education and is related to the philosophy of education.

shantel orox

Masters student in the field of curriculum, any ideas of a research topic on low achiever students

Rey

In the field of curriculum any ideas of a research topic on deconalization in contextualization of digital teaching and learning through in higher education

Omada Victoria Enyojo

Amazing guidelines

JAMES MALUKI MUTIA

I am a graduate with two masters. 1) Master of arts in religious studies and 2) Master in education in foundations of education. I intend to do a Ph.D. on my second master’s, however, I need to bring both masters together through my Ph.D. research. can I do something like, ” The contribution of Philosophy of education for a quality religion education in Kenya”? kindly, assist and be free to suggest a similar topic that will bring together the two masters. thanks in advance

betiel

Hi, I am an Early childhood trainer as well as a researcher, I need more support on this topic: The impact of early childhood education on later academic success.

TURIKUMWE JEAN BOSCO

I’m a student in upper level secondary school and I need your support in this research topics: “Impact of incorporating project -based learning in teaching English language skills in secondary schools”.

Fitsum Ayele

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161 Online Education Topics and Essay Examples

🏆 best research title examples about online class, 💡 most interesting online learning topics to write about, 📚 good online education topics for presentation, 🌐 catchy titled for online learning essay, 💻 online class research titles, ❓ research topics about online classes.

  • Online Classes Vs. Traditional Classes Essay The essay shall endeavor to examine the differences between online classes and the traditional classes, with a preference for the later.
  • Benefits of Online Learning This knowledge and skill one gains from online help the person to intermingle with others in a better way, progress their profession, or develop their business successfully.
  • The Importance of Online Learning For this purpose, it is possible to conduct classes in real-time, when they can ask and receive the opinion of others.
  • How to Succeed in Online Classes The time you attend the class has to coincide with the time of day when your brain is also most receptive to the information it receives.
  • Distance Learning: Advantages and Limitations All three articles cover the topic of distance learning in the context of the coronavirus and everyday practice. Speaking of the advantages of distance learning, the author suggests that remote learning may not be ideal […]
  • Traditional vs. Distance Learning Systems On the other hand, in online learning, the students partake learning individually, and in some cases, students doing the same course in the same college do not even get to know each other.
  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning Amidst that confusion, it would be important to take a deep look into the subject and see the disadvantages and the advantages of online learning.
  • Comparison of Stress Level Among Traditional Learning and Online Learning College Students The distance learners have been perceived to be enjoying a suitable environment of learning as opposed to the traditional classroom learners who experience high levels of stress.
  • Personal Reflections for the MBA Distance Learning I was able to concentrate on various subjects, complete assignments, and liaise with different instructors throughout the learning process. The approach made the learning process desirable and capable of supporting my aims.
  • Online Learning Perception and Effectiveness While the solution allowed students to access information and continue their studies, there was apprehension in regard to the efficacy of online learning and the outcomes such shifts have on students’ academic performances.
  • Virtual Learning: Yes and No Argumentation The argument stems from the quality of the education that can be received via the internet and what the drawbacks are once there is no physical contact between students and the professors.
  • Social Constructivism in Cooperative and Distance Learning As opposed to the behaviorist view of learning which gives more importance to the imitation aspects of the learner in the learning process, this constructivist theory gives greater room for the active interaction of the […]
  • Zoom for Online Learning Updates During the pandemic, the zoom was and is still the most downloaded App in the USA and globally compared to others.
  • Online Learning and Classroom Learning Combining the two concepts then, we can define e-learning “as a learning environment that exists solely in the form of digital content that is stored, accessed and exchanged through networked computer and information systems” The […]
  • The Impact of Distance Learning on the Mental State The argument of the supporters of the first perspective is based on the fact that online education reduces the ability of students to concentrate and deteriorates overall motivation.
  • Administrative Progressivism in Relation to Online Learning The main idea of the discussion is to consider online learning from the perspective of administrative progressivism with identifying the advantages and disadvantages of using the mentioned approach along with the chosen method of study.
  • Online Learning in Vocational Education and Training There are different variations in the process of learning on the basis of the types of combination and integration with the other technologies used for the teaching and learning process.
  • The Roles of Families in Virtual Learning By analyzing the various roles that families play in virtual learning, the authors demonstrate that family involvement and support are critical to the success of their children The authors begin by discussing the impact of […]
  • Distance Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic The radical transition from the traditional system of obtaining knowledge to virtual education actualizes research related to the analysis of the specifics and dysfunctions of distance learning.
  • The Need for Online Learning at St. Francis Elementary School This has led to the need to design an online learning platform suitable for interactive and critical learning experiences by the tutors and their learners.
  • Distance Learning of Forest Management Considering that the goal of the research was to analyze the results and implications of a practical approach to the forest management course engagement and e-learning development, most information was derived from the expert team […]
  • A Distance Learning Program: Strategies for Successful Starting or Expanding An institution has to identify the most appropriate communication tools and media to be used by students and teachers in a distance learning program.
  • Starting and Expanding Distance Learning Program Therefore, decision-makers must grapple with the problem of distant learning planning, as institutions are caught between the desire to serve students online and the requirement to maintain traditional student services.
  • Factors for Teachers’ Motivation in Distance Learning Efficient communication with the administration of an institution is a crucial factor that affects the motivation of teachers in distance learning.
  • Pros and Cons of Distance Education On the one hand, modernization of education allows it to expand the usual boundaries of transmitting and receiving information in the educational process while retaining all the integral components.
  • Rhetorical Analysis of the Distance Education The essay can be addressed both to the children and parents for whom the issues of health and psychology are important.
  • Distance Learning Experiences of In-Service Music Teachers From Puerto Rico The study explores the experiences of in-service music teachers in distance learning. This paper examines the motivations of in-service teachers in distance learning.
  • Design Thinking for Online Learning Project In this paper, attention will be paid to the problem of a lack of engagement with online learning and a reflection on design thinking as its solution.
  • Maximizing the Effectiveness of Online Learning Flipped learning allows the teacher to provide the greatest amount of time for direct interaction with students, which is especially important in the framework of online learning.
  • New Online Learning Platform: Market Analysis The goal of online education is to enhance the knowledge of people who want to pursue a particular career for a fee that is lesser when compared to offline studies in Universities.
  • Software Engineering Online Learning Center However, it is not easy to tell what the website is promoting just by the look of the homepage and thus, visitors with less time might not be interested to click to the sub-sections and […]
  • Distance Education Problem Overview Generally, distance education can be evaluated as a binary prospect: on one hand, it presents a row of advantages for the people who are busy with their work and family duties, and on the other […]
  • Online Learning in Jordan Universities: Effectiveness and Obstruction For the quality learning process, e-learning has been developed to use different approaches to ease the process of learning. E-learning is a novel idea in most of the Arab world and it has come with […]
  • Distance Education vs Traditional Institutions Though both foreign and traditional education institutions provide knowledge and skills to students in order to enable them become competent in their profession, the institutions vary in the quality of degree courses they provide to […]
  • Distance Learning Fulfilling Education Purpose Distance learning mode of education, which is a kind of education that takes place when the teachers and the students are separated by space and time, does not entirely serve the purpose of education. The […]
  • Distributed and Distance Learning Systems It is a system that can be of great impact to the researchers this is because one is able to get information that will help him or her get a cue for that group that […]
  • Nurses and Virtual Learning Environments: Understanding Limits in Nursing Education Despite the expected benefits and improvements in nursing education due to the use of virtual learning environments, this practice may create a number of challenges for students and teachers.
  • Online Learning Design Specifications The rapid rise of technologies and the evolution of communication means resulted in the appearance of new approaches to the learning process.
  • Innovative Social Networking in Online High School The preparedness of the school is also critical towards the success of this innovative technology. The school should also examine the benefits and bottlenecks of the new technology.
  • Online Classes for High School Students I wish to submit to you that the need for extra input in terms of study has caused many parents to enroll their children in online study classes to supplement the knowledge they get from […]
  • Evaluating Online Learning Tools The learners can be referred to reliable wikis and blogs to integrate the ideas learnt from the class. In this manner, the desires of people to learn are not limited by distance and time.
  • Online Learning Principles and Objectives In this way, the students will not only argue the purposes and significance of the course to their life, but also create an interactive session among the students and their instructor. As the instructor, I […]
  • Online Learning Space Creating Process On the other hand, a community of practice has been known to mean a crowd of people who are in the same career or share the same interest.
  • Distance Learning and Virtual High School This implies that district schools in lines with virtual High school are of much importance to both the educators and students.
  • Distance Education: Best Practices and Approaches The study with the use of a case-based learning system undertaken by Cifuentes, Mercer, Alverez, and Bettati in 2010 demonstrated that students could remotely participate in the learning process without the need to be physically […]
  • Learning Objectives Implementation With the advent of the internet, online courses have sprouted resulting in the debate on the two options, traditional class setting, and the online class.
  • The Importance of Virtual Learning Communities The learning communities enable the instructors and the students to volunteer their questions. The virtual learning communities enable online degree programs to give students autonomy over the learning process.
  • Distance Learning and Its Evolution Definitions of distance education are varied and diverse, but the main concept of distance learning can be summarized from the situation wherein the student and the educator are separated by distance and time and the […]
  • Online Learning and Innovations in Pedagogy On the other hand, computer-based learning can be understood as a learning environment in which computers are used to mediate between learners and content without necessarily being online.
  • Efficient Interaction in Distance Learning Classroom The problem is that the number of enrolments in the online form of education is augmenting, even as the knowledge regarding the factors that influence the effectiveness of distance education continues to be scarce.
  • Virtual Learning Environments: Effective Use Tutors often face the challenge of effective delivery of lessons in the classroom given the diverse categories of students. Learning objects basically refer to blocks of content that can be interlinked to produce a course.
  • Using Wikis to Encourage Online Classes Collaborative Work The problem is that the entire process seems to ignore the relevance of enabling students to interact and share their ideas in the learning environment.
  • Technology Acceptance Model of Online Learning The findings of the study demonstrate the effectiveness of external variables related to online learning environments in predicting the ability of users to adopt online learning community.
  • Formulating an Online Learning Course Reviewing is done from the student side where a person analyzes the content and readability of the information contained in the online learning program.
  • Tone Impact in Distance Education Thus, in this paper, the tone will refer to the tone the instructor implies in the text material and the tone of conversations between the instructors and the students.
  • Ethical Issues in Online Learning The online assessment methods should consider the ethical issues arising from the learning process. The assessment methods should be able to prevent all forms of dishonesty during the learning process.
  • Virtual Learning Environment: Concord Consortium The problem is that this capitalization can be perceived as sign of rudeness, and it can make reluctant to take part in the discussion. Provided that a teacher can promote the involvement of students, they […]
  • High School of Virtual Learning Environment The aim will be to see incorporation of the system, the opportunities, and the challenges faced while using Virtual Learning Environment.
  • Transition From Traditional Education to Online Learning The speed of information transfer at any time and anywhere through the internet makes online learning relatively cheap compared to the traditional education system.
  • Distance Learning OL and Interactive Video in Higher Education The two-way communication systems as well as the need to interact ‘physically’ between and among the participants are what propelled the adoption of this mode of learning.
  • Distance Learning Foundational Concepts Another problem that arises as a result of distance learning is the lack of face to face or one on one contact between teachers or instructors and their students.
  • Convenience and Flexibility of the Online Classes The advantage of online courses for full or part-time employed individuals is that you can plan how you take your courses. Online classes also introduce students to a variety of web-based tools and techniques that […]
  • Concept of Distance Learning in Modern Education System The accessibility of the distance learning courses mainly depend on the awareness of the instructor to the accessibility issues and how the instructor can best handle the course with consideration of accessibility.
  • Changes in Learning and Motivation With the Advent of Online Learning Institutions of learning have introduced online learning through improvement of infrastructure, incorporation of new technologies in learning, recruitment of professionals who are conversant with new technologies, and revision of curriculums in order to accommodate new […]
  • Creating Student Engagement in Online Learning Environment To contribute to creating and stimulating student engagement in online learning environments, it is important to focus on such factors as the increase of students’ motivation, focus on independent and inquiry-based learning, the active role […]
  • Online Learning Is a Superior Form of Education This paper will argue that online learning is a superior form of education since it helps students and learning institutes to overcome limitations imposed by the traditional learning environment.
  • Contrasting an Online Class to a Traditional Class In most cases, the traditional class syllabus is usually a bit wider hence offering the trainee much more as opposed to online classes where there is lack of provisions for diversification of the subject.
  • Comparison of Online Learning and Traditional Learning
  • Historical and Socio Cultural Analysis of Online Learning
  • Analysis of Using Online Video Lecture on Learning Outcome: The Mediating Role of Student Interaction and Student Engagement
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning in an Online Class
  • Analysis of the Cyber School as an Institution With Online Methods of Learning
  • Benefits & Issues of Online Learning
  • Swot Analyis for Online Learning
  • Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning
  • How Does Prior Knowledge Impact Students Online Learning Behaviors?
  • How Learning Online Works?
  • How Technology Can Improve Online Learning?
  • Is Face For Face Learning Better Then Online Learning?
  • Online Classes: A Successful Learning Environment
  • Online Learning For Students With Disabilities
  • Pros And Disadvantages of Online Education
  • Should Online Learning Be Encouraged?
  • Knowledge Gradient Algorithm for a General Class of Online Learning Problems
  • Three Online Learning Strategies
  • Virtual Learning Environment and Online Education
  • What Factors Promote Sustained Online Discussions and Collaborative Learning in a Web-Based Course?
  • Adult Learning in an Online Environment
  • Analysis on Early Design for Online Learning
  • Assessment of Conflict Resolution Strategies Within an Online Learning Team
  • Compare and Contrast Online Learning vs Traditional Classroom Learning
  • Examining the Factors that Influence how Instructors Provide Feedback in Online Learning Environments
  • False Concepts Surrounding The Online Learning Environment
  • Generalized Feature Embedding for Supervised, Unsupervised, and Online Learning Tasks
  • Implementing Comprehensive Interventions to Support Student Success in Online Learning
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Online Education
  • Managing Online Learning In Collabrative Group
  • Managing the Online Learning Revolution in an MBA course: Quality Assurance through Strategic Development
  • Online Education Is a Type of Distance Learning
  • Online Learning: High School Students For College
  • Online Learning: Stochastic Approximation
  • Planning Strategies And Time Management Essential in Online Learning
  • Development of Online Technology and the Advantages of E-Learning
  • Effectiveness of Online Learning
  • Reasons Why Older Students Have a Difficult Time Adjusting to Online Classes
  • How Does Online Classes Work
  • Why Online Learning Is Not Common Among Primary School Students
  • Reasons for Taking Online Classes
  • Online Classes Are More Flexible Than Conventional Education
  • Online Classes Are Less Effective Than Regular Classroom Classes
  • The Four Coursera Online Classes
  • The Pros and Cons of Online Classes
  • The Advocacy for Online Classes According to Todd Gilman
  • Online Classes and Face With Face Classes
  • Are Online Classes Beneficial To Students
  • The Benefits and Drawbacks of Traditional and Online Classes
  • Online Classes Are Becoming A Trend for College Campuses
  • Online Classes Should Not Reduce Students’ Options and Opportunities
  • Why Are More Students Taking Online Classes
  • Online Classes vs. Traditional Classroom Learning
  • The Demand for Online Classes
  • Online Courses and the Impact of Weaker Interpersonal Connections in Online Classes
  • The Similarities Between Online Classes and Traditional Classes
  • Comparision Between Traditional Classes and Online Classes
  • Online Classes Are Becoming More and More Relevant Now
  • Online Classes and Oral Presentation Challenges
  • The Primary Difference Between Classroom and Online Classes
  • What Is the Newest Innovation in Online Learning?
  • What Are Some Good Websites for Online Learning?
  • Will Online Learning Will Replace Face to Face Teaching?
  • Do Students Appreciate Online Learning?
  • What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Online Learning?
  • Which Is the Best Online Learning Platform?
  • Which Machine Learning Algorithms for Classification Support Online Learning?
  • How Much Does It Cost to Set up an Online Learning Management System?
  • How Is Online Learning More Convenient Over the Traditional Classroom?
  • Is Online Learning Becoming More Interactive With the Passage of Time?
  • What Is the Relation Between Reinforcement Learning and Online Learning?
  • What Are the Issues Related to Online Learning and Teaching?
  • Why Do Students Struggle With Online Learning?
  • What Problems and Issues Are Seen in Online Learning Communities?
  • What Are the Disadvantages of Online Learning?
  • What Opportunities Does Online Learning Give?
  • What Are the Benefits and Challenges of Online Learning?
  • What Is the Difference Between Distance Learning and Online Learning?
  • Where Do Online Learning Sites Keep Videos?
  • Why Do Many People Find Online Learning Really Hard?
  • Is It Possible to Do Online Learning With LSTM?
  • Why Do Online Learning Sites Use So Much Handwriting?
  • How Effective Is Online Learning in Higher Education?
  • Is SMC University a Credible Online Learning Institution?
  • What Is Online Learning and Its Types?
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A Survey on the Effectiveness of Online Teaching–Learning Methods for University and College Students

Preethi sheba hepsiba darius.

1 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, CMR Institute of Technology, Bangalore, 560037 India

Edison Gundabattini

2 School of Mechanical Engineering, Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, 632014 India

Darius Gnanaraj Solomon

Online teaching–learning methods have been followed by world-class universities for more than a decade to cater to the needs of students who stay far away from universities/colleges. But during the COVID-19 pandemic period, online teaching–learning helped almost all universities, colleges, and affiliated students. An attempt is made to find the effectiveness of online teaching–learning methods for university and college students by conducting an online survey. A questionnaire has been specially designed and deployed among university and college students. About 450 students from various universities, engineering colleges, medical colleges in South India have taken part in the survey and submitted responses. It was found that the following methods promote effective online learning: animations, digital collaborations with peers, video lectures delivered by faculty handling the subject, online quiz having multiple-choice questions, availability of student version software, a conducive environment at home, interactions by the faculty during lectures and online materials provided by the faculty. Moreover, online classes are more effective because they provide PPTs in front of every student, lectures are heard by all students at the sound level of their choice, and walking/travel to reach classes is eliminated.

Introduction

Critical thinking and creativity of students increase with innovative educational methods according to the world declaration on higher education in the twenty-first century [ 1 ]. Innovative educational strategies and educational innovations are required to make the students learn. There are three vertices in the teaching–learning process viz., teaching, communication technology through digital tools, and innovative practices in teaching. In the first vertex, the teacher is a facilitator and provides resources and tools to students and helps them to develop new knowledge and skills. Project-based learning helps teachers and students to promote collaborative learning by discussing specific topics. Cognitive independence is developed among students. To promote global learning, teachers are required to innovate permanently. It is possible when university professors and researchers are given space to new educational forms in different areas of specializations. Virtual classrooms, unlike traditional classrooms, give unlimited scope for introducing teaching innovation strategies. The second vertex refers to the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools for promoting innovative education. Learning management systems (LMS) help in teaching, learning, educational administration, testing, and evaluation. The use of ICT tools promotes technological innovations and advances in learning and knowledge management. The third vertex deals with innovations in teaching/learning to solve problems faced by teachers and students. Creative use of new elements related to curriculum, production of something new, and transformations emerge in classrooms resulting in educational innovations. Evaluations are necessary to improve the innovations so that successful methods can be implemented in all teaching and learning community in an institution [ 2 ]. The pandemic has forced digital learning and job portal Naukri.com reports a fourfold growth for teaching professionals in the e-learning medium [ 3 ]. The initiatives are taken by the government also focus on online mode as an option in a post-covid world [ 4 ]. A notable learning experience design consultant pointed out that, educators are entrusted to lead the way as the world changes and are actively involved in the transformation [ 5 ]. Weiss notes that an educator needs to make the lectures more interesting [ 6 ].

This paper presents the online teaching–learning tools, methods, and a survey on the innovative practices in teaching and learning. Advantages and obstacles in online teaching, various components on the effective use of online tools, team-based collaborative learning, simulation, and animation-based learning are discussed in detail. The outcome of a survey on the effectiveness of online teaching and learning is included. The following sections present the online teaching–learning tools, the details of the questionnaire used for the survey, and the outcome of the survey.

Online Teaching and Learning Tools

The four essential parts of online teaching [ 7 ] are virtual classrooms, individual activities, assessments in real-time, and collaborative group work. Online teaching tools are used to facilitate faculty-student interaction as well as student–student collaborations [ 8 ]. The ease of use, the satisfaction level, the usefulness, and the confidence level of the instructor is crucial [ 9 ] in motivating the instructor to use online teaching tools. Higher education institutes recognize the need to accommodate wide diverse learners and Hilliard [ 10 ] points out that technical support and awareness to both faculty and student is essential in the age of blended learning. Data analytics tool coupled with the LMS is essential to enhance [ 11 ] the quality of teaching and improve the course design. The effective usage of online tools is depicted in Fig.  1 comprising of an instructor to student delivery, collaboration among students, training for the tools, and data analytics for constant improvement of course and assessment methods.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
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The various components of effective usage of online tools

Online Teaching Tools

A plethora of online teaching tools are available and this poses a challenge for decision-makers to choose the tools that best suits the needs of the course. The need for the tools, the cost, usability, and features determine which tools are adopted by various learners and institutions. Many universities have offered online classes for students. These are taken up by students opting for part-time courses. This offers them flexibility in timing and eliminates the need for travel to campus. The pandemic situation in 2019 has forced many if not all institutions to completely shift classes online. LMS tools are packaged as Software as a Service (SaaS) and the pricing generally falls into 4 categories: (i) per learner, per month (ii) per learner, per use (iii) per course (iv) licensing fee for on-premise installation [ 12 ].

Online Learning Tools

Online teaching/learning as part of the ongoing semester is typically part of a classroom management tool. GSuite for education [ 13 ] and Microsoft Teams [ 14 ] are both widely adopted by schools and colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic to effectively shift regular classes online. Other popular learning management systems that have been adopted as part of blended learning are Edmodo [ 15 ], Blackboard [ 16 ], and MoodleCloud [ 17 ]. Davis et al. [ 18 ] point out advantages and obstacles for both students and instructors about online teaching shown in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Advantages and obstacles in online teaching

StudentsInstructors
AdvantagesFlexibility
Self-motivationImproved communications
Working independentlyCourse management
Course design
ObstaclesInterpersonal relationships
Misinterpreting expectationsSetting expectations
Time managementProviding feedback

The effectiveness of course delivery depends on using the appropriate tools in the course design. This involves engaging the learners and modifying the course design to cater to various learning styles.

A Survey on Innovative Practices in Teaching and Learning

The questionnaire aims to identify the effectiveness of various online tools and technologies, the preferred learning methods of students, and other factors that might influence the teaching–learning process. The parameters were based on different types of learners, advantages, and obstacles to online learning [ 10 , 18 ]. Questions 1–4 are used to comprehend the learning style of the student. Questions 5–7 are posed to find out the effectiveness of the medium used for teaching and evaluation. Questions 8–12 are framed to identify the various barriers to online learning faced by students.

This methodology is adopted as most of the students are attending online courses from home and polls of this kind will go well with the students from various universities. Students participated in the survey and answered most of the questionnaire enthusiastically. The only challenge was a suitable environment and free time for them to answer the questionnaire, as they are already loaded with lots of online work. Students from various universities pursuing professional courses like engineering and medicine took part in this survey. They are from various branches of sciences and technologies. Students are from private universities, colleges, and government institutions. Figure  2 shows the institution-wise respondents. Microsoft Teams and Google meet platforms were used for this survey among university, medical college, and engineering college students. About 450 students responded to this survey. 52% of the respondents are from VIT University Vellore, Tamil Nadu, 23% of the respondents are from CMR Institute of Technology (CMRIT), Bangalore, 15% of the respondents are from medical colleges and 10% are from other engineering colleges. During this pandemic period, VIT students are staying with parents who are living in different states of India like Andhra, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, MP, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Andaman, and so on. Only a few students are living in Tamil Nadu. Some of the students are staying with parents in other countries like Dubai, Oman, South Africa, and so on. Some of the students of CMRIT Bangalore are living in Bangalore and others in towns and villages of Karnataka state. Students of medical colleges are living in different parts of Tamil Nadu and students of engineering colleges are living in different parts of Andhra Pradesh. Hence, the survey is done in a wider geographical region.

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Institution-wise respondents

Figure  3 shows the branch-wise respondents. It is shown that 158 students belong to mechanical/civil engineering. 108 respondents belong to computer science and engineering, 68 students belong to medicine, 58 students belong to electrical & electronics engineering, and electronics & communication engineering. 58 students belong to other disciplines.

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Branch-wise respondents

Questionnaire Used

Students were assured of their confidentiality and were promised that their names would not appear in the document. A list of the questions asked as part of the survey is given below.

Questionnaire:

Sample group: B Tech students from different branches of sciences across various engineering institutions and MBBS medical students.

  • Individual assignment
  • Small group (No. 5 students) work
  • Large group (No. 10 students and more) work
  • Project-based learning
  • Two by two (2 member team)
  • Small group workgroup (No. 5 students) work
  • Whiteboard and pen
  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Digital pen and slate
  • I am learning at my own pace comfortably
  • My situational challenges are not suitable
  • I can learn better with uninterrupted network connectivity
  • I am distracted with various activities at home, viz. TV, chatting, etc.
  • delivered by my faculty
  • delivered by NPTEL
  • delivered by reputed Overseas Universities
  • delivered by unknown experts
  • Traditional—pen and paper—MCQ
  • Traditional—pen and paper—short answers
  • Online quiz—MCQ
  • Online quiz—short answers
  • Unable to decide
  • Every student can hear the lecture clearly
  • PPTs are available right in front of every student
  • Students can ask doubts without much reservation
  • Students need not walk long distances before reaching the class
  • No one disturbs me during my online learning.
  • My friend/family member/roommate/neighbor occasionally disturb me
  • My friend/family member/roommate/neighbor constantly disturb me
  • I don’t have many responsibilities.
  • I have a moderate amount of responsibilities, but I have sufficient time for online learning.
  • I have many responsibilities; I don’t have any time left for online learning.
  • Ask the professor during/after an online lecture
  • Post the query in a discussion forum of your class and get help from your peers
  • Go through online material providing an additional explanation.
  • A laptop/desktop computer
  • A smartphone
  • Other devices

Outcome of the survey

Students would prefer to work in a group of 5 students to engage personally in digital learning as seen from Fig.  4 .

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Personal engagement in digital learning

Digital collaboration to enable students to work at ease on a specific task is to allow them to work in small groups of 5 students as seen in Fig.  5 .

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Digital collaboration to enable students to work at ease

Animations are found to be the best digital approach motivating many students to learn as seen in Fig.  6 .

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Digital approaches that motivate students to learn

The online learning experience of students is shown in Fig.  7 . The majority of students have said that they can learn at their own pace comfortably through online learning.

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The online learning experience of students

The effectiveness of the recorded video lecture is shown in Fig.  8 . The majority of students agree that the video lectures delivered by his/her faculty teaching the subject help students to learn effectively.

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More effective recorded video lecture

Online quiz having multiple-choice questions (MCQ) is preferred by most of the students for testing their understanding of the subject as seen in Fig.  9 .

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More effective quiz for testing the understanding

The usefulness of the student version of the software downloaded from the internet is shown in Fig.  10 . 45.7% of the students agree that it is useful for learning whereas 45.2% of them are unable to decide. The rest of the students feel that the student version of the software is not useful.

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The usefulness of the student version of the software

The reasons for the effectiveness of online teaching–learning are shown in Fig.  11 . The majority of the students, feel that the PPTs are available right in front of every student so that following the lecture makes the learning effective. In universities where a fully flexible credit system (FFCS) is followed, students need to walk long distances for reaching their classrooms. Day Scholars in universities as well as engineering colleges are required to travel a considerable distance before reaching the first-hour class. According to many students, online learning is more effective since walking/traveling is completed eliminated. If the voice of the faculty member is feeble, students sitting in the last few rows of the class would not hear the lecture completely. Some students feel that online learning is more effective since the lecture is reaching every student irrespective of the number of students in a virtual classroom.

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Reasons for the effectiveness of online teaching–learning

50.3% of students agree that they do not have any disturbance during online learning and it is more effective. Many of them feel that occasionally their friends or relatives disturb students during their online learning as shown in Fig.  12 .

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Disturbances during online learning

Figure  13 shows the environment at home for online learning. 76.9% of the respondents stated that they have a moderate amount of responsibilities at home but they have sufficient time for online learning. 16.1% of them have said that they do not have many responsibilities whereas 7% of them claimed that they have many responsibilities at home and they do not have any time left for online learning.

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The environment at home for online learning

Figure  14 shows the methods adopted for clearing doubts in online learning. 43.2% of the respondents ask the Professor and get their doubts clarified during online lectures. 25.5% of them post queries in the discussion forum and help from peers. 31.3% of them go through the online materials providing additional explanation and get their doubts clarified.

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Methods adopted for clearing doubts in online learning

Figure  15 shows the devices used by students for online learning. Most of the students use laptop/desktop computers, many of them use smartphones and very few students use tablets.

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Devices used for online learning

The association between responses 1 and 2 is tested using the chi-square test. The results are presented in Table ​ Table2 2 which shows the observed cell totals, expected cell values, and chi-square statistic for each cell. It is seen that association exists between several responses between questions.

The observed cell totals, (expected cell values) and the [chi-square statistic for each cell]

Questions1a1b1c1dRow totals
2a66 (49.91) [5.19]45 (64.17) [5.73]2 (3.21) [0.46]41 (36.72) [0.50]154
2b68 (84.91) [3.37]133 (109.17) [5.20]3 (5.46) [1.11]58 (62.47) [0.32]262
2c6 (5.19) [0.13]2 (6.67) [3.27]4 (0.33) [40.33]4 (3.81) [0.01]16
Column totals1401809103432

The observed cell values indicate that the highest association is found between responses 1b and 2b since both these responses are related to a small working group having 5 members. The lowest association is found between the responses of 1c and 2a having the lowest observed cell value and expected cell value. The reason for this is response 1c shows the work done by a 10 member team and the response 2a shows a two-member team. The chi-square statistic is 65.6025. The p value is < 0.00001. The result is significant at p  < 0.05.

The outcome of a survey on the effectiveness of innovations in online teaching–learning methods for university and college students is presented. About 450 students belonging to VIT Vellore, CMRIT Bangalore, Medical College, Pudukkottai, and engineering colleges have responded to the survey. A questionnaire designed for taking is survey is presented. The chi-square statistic is 65.6025. The p value is < 0.00001. The result is significant at p  < 0.05. Associations between several responses of questions exist. The survey undertaken provides an estimate of the effectiveness and pitfalls of online teaching during the online teaching that has been taking place during the pandemic. The study done paves the way for educators to understand the effectiveness of online teaching. It is important to redesign the course delivery in an online mode to make students engaged and the outcome of the survey supports these aforementioned observations.

The outcome of the survey is given below:

  • A small group of 5 students would help students to have digital collaboration and engage personally in digital learning.
  • Animations are found to be the best digital approach for effective learning.
  • Online learning helps students to learn at their own pace comfortably.
  • Students prefer to learn from video lectures delivered by his/her faculty handling the subject.
  • Online quiz having multiple-choice questions (MCQ) preferred by students.
  • Student version software is useful for learning.
  • Online classes are more effective because they provide PPTs in front of every student, lectures are heard by all students at the sound level of their choice, and walking/travel to reach classes is eliminated.
  • Students do not have any disturbances or distractions which make learning more effective.
  • But for a few students, most of the students have no or limited responsibilities at home which provides a good ambiance and a nice environment for effective online learning.
  • Students can get their doubts clarified during lectures, by posting queries in discussion forums and by referring to online materials provided by the faculty.

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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