Does Online Learning Work?

Though many within the online learning field have considered this question to be a bit of a “been there, done that” moment, some recent studies have indicated new evidence on the impact of online learning for students.  What does online learning “do” to student success?  What does it “do” to graduation rates?

So the short version is that many studies have indicated that in terms of meeting course outcomes, online courses are at least as effective as face-to-face courses.

But many studies at the community college level have indicated a difference in student success rates (generally considered to be A-C) of anywhere from 5% – 10%.  The Community College Research Center’s investigation also revealed this in a 2 state study.

The Paradox

Students who take online courses at community colleges get good grades in lower percentages, but (and this is a big but) they graduate sooner and in greater percentages.

Authors Shea and Bidjerano analyzed national data from community colleges and found that students who take online courses early in their degrees had a 13.5% completion rate over 4 years, as compared to only 8.9% of students who had not.

With online courses continuing to grow at a rate faster than higher education overall (enrollment in online courses grew at 3.7% last year,)  and enrollment declines being seen in community colleges what core components impact student success in online courses?  In other words, how can institutions improve students success rates in online courses?

Follow the Data

From the research conducted into what makes online learning effective, we know that:

  1. Engagement is key to student success online
  2. Good instructional design is critical (outcomes & objectives)
  3. Effective use of technology is a good thing
  4. Student preparation may have some effect

Online Engagement

Historically, online courses were created by “converting” face-to-face instructional materials and quizzes into online delivery systems.  With student engagement being key, it appears that social engagement is important, and studies have supported that theory.  Lack of student engagement online (as indicated by frequency and timeliness of instructor interactions) correlated with student perception of lack of quality in online courses.  In other words, the less engaging the course, the poorer the students perceived the course to be.

Why might online courses be created to be less engaging?  System limitations.  At a time when over one-third of recent marriages start online, when Facebook has 936 million active users in Q1 of 2015 alone, we can postulate that online engagement can be highly effective.  But while has a lot invested in creating engagement online, our LMS systems (i.e. Blackboard et al,) were mainly built to deliver content.

Importance of Instructional Design

…. and delivering content should probably not be the focus online.  Engagement with content is a different animal than posting content.  Recent discussions of contemporary learning theory have focused more and more on active, participatory learning in virtual environments.  This great post explains some of the differences between Education 1.0 and Education 3.0.   Or here by Hase and Kenyon, the originators of heutagogy.

How do you know what is quality online?  Many quality tools have appeared over time based on comprehensive research into what works online.  I’m not going to repeat all that research here, but find research on Quality Matters here, find research on eCampus Alberta’s Rubric here, and find information about Universal Design for Learning here.

Student Preparation for Online Learning

A Noel-Levitz study found that Life Factors and Individual Attributes were a significant predictor of student satisfaction in online courses.  Personal attributes seem to be one of the most- if not the most – important component of student preparation, and this SmarterMeasure research supports that and the conclusion that results on skills for online learning were also correlated with success in online courses.

However, beyond technical skills, by far a learner’s general abilities and qualities such as motivation, attitude, confidence, and independence are most highly correlated with success in online courses.

Other Institutional Advantages

In addition to the conclusion that “yes, it’s effective at graduating students, somewhat less effective at getting them good grades (by 5-10%,) and how you do it really matters,” there are the other institutional advantages.  Beyond fiscal sustainability, when a learner is engaged online, you can capture rich data about their progress in real-time.  No longer does an institution have to wait until the student has already failed the course to conduct intrusive, rapid-fire outreach.

When a student doesn’t come to class, a faculty member can’t always call them to ask why.  But the college can send emails, texts, and even contact the student on social media if that student is participating.  Many institutions don’t have those systems set up yet.  While’s very existence depends upon tracking your online behavior, colleges are not yet there with the technology and the interaction.  But many institutions are actively integrating these components in an effort to support student success.

So there you have it!  The brief version anyways.  Interested in Tri-C’s data on the same?  Contact

Blackboard Feature Focus: the Student Preview Tool

There is a new tool for faculty called the Student Preview now available in Blackboard.

Faculty who want to view their course sites as students can now do so using Student Preview without having to log out or use a separate browser session. Student Preview provides an easy way to view your course, take a test, view grades, or make sure that content is appearing when and as it should exactly how your students would see it. To enter Student Preview mode, click on the icon/button to the left of Edit Mode on your Blackboard course site:

Blog Post 1

The top of your course site will show a message that Student Preview mode is ON:

You can now navigate your course as a student. When you are done, you can exit the Student Preview by clicking the Exit Preview button at the top of the page.

When exiting Student Preview you have some options (see image below). For example, if you wanted to see how a test or other feature would work as a student, but would not want the results remaining in the class (e.g., showing in the Grade Center), you have the option to delete the user data YOU as the student user created. If you wanted to keep a record of that information, you can instead keep the preview user data you created in your student preview for future viewing as an Instructor. Finally, you can have Blackboard remember your choice and not ask again.

Blog Post 3

Some faculty are currently using faculty-as-student accounts to view their course sites from the student perspective. The Student Preview tool provides the same experience, but with an additional benefit: the best part about the student preview mode is that faculty can use it anytime. You do not have to wait until the course starts to view your course as a student with Student Preview!

For more information, visit

Special Issue of American Journal of Distance Education focused on Quality Matters

Check out the great articles on the research behind QM!

Great article The Impact of Findability on on  Student Motivation, Self-Efficacy, and Perceptions of Online Course Quality! 


“Findability” is a component of “usability,” whereby students can find essential course components.  Results included that courses with low findability reported lower levels of self-efficacy and motivation.

Interested in learning more about how you can get more involved with Quality Matters at Tri-C and improve findability in your course?  Contact


Open Access Week

Did you know it’s Open Access Week?  What is that?

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.

Check it out at:

What are Open Educational Resources (OER)?

How can you get involved?

  1. Use Open Educational Resources (OER) – free, openly licensed materials.  Your students will love you!
  2. Publish materials as OER – share your great educational materials (and get publication credit!)
  3. Tell a friend!  The more folks who are involved in the OER community, the better!

Learn more about Open Educational Resources HERE!

Want to get involved?  Contact Sasha dot Thackaberry at

Message from IT Regarding Instructor PC Login

Hi All!  We’re sharing the below message from IT in order to get it out to all Tri-C faculty asap.  Please contact IT with any questions regarding it at 987-4357.  Best! – Sasha

Based on faculty feedback regarding the need to use “ccc_network\” when logging into classroom-based instructor PCs, ITS has identified a solution that will address this immediate need:

  • Starting at 6:30 AM ET on Friday, September 18th, faculty will no longer need to use “ccc_network\” in front of their username when logging into a classroom-based instructor PC.
  • Faculty will be able to log into these machines using only their username, just like on their office PCs.

There should be no negative impact from a faculty perspective. Please note the following:

  • If a faculty member encounters a classroom-based instructor PC that does not enable a faculty member to login using only his/her username, then please report the issue to the HelpDesk at x4357 or via email at Faculty members can still login to these machines by using “ccc_network\” in front of their username until the issue has been corrected.
  • Any student who logs into a classroom-based instructor PC will now need to use his/her email address (, which is how students access their email currently
  • If a faculty member needs to log into a normal lab PC or a Learning Commons PC, then he/she will still need to use “ccc_network\” in from of his/her username.

A more detailed description of the issue, resolution, impact, timeline, ongoing monitoring, and the future state can be found here.

We sincerely appreciate your partnership as we work to enhance the faculty experience in the classroom. – IT and Technow

2 New Free QM All-Day Trainings: Applying the Quality Matters Rubric

Sharing two opportunities for participating in the Applying the Quality Matters Rubric workshop through the Ohio QM Consortium.  Please contact Sasha Thackaberry at in order to get your workbook if you register.

Note that you will need to register per the directions for each training.  Lunch is provided.  Faculty are eligible for Service Credits (consult the catalog,) and adjunct faculty can receive 3 SEUs.  Please contact your Adjunct Services Office for details on how to process this.

University of Cincinnati

Seats Available: 15

Date:  Friday, September 18, 2015

Time: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Check-in at 8:45 AM)

Location:    University of Cincinnati Clermont College, Room 150 McDonough Hall, 4200 Clermont College Dr., Batavia, OH.  Maps and driving directions will be provided in a future email.

Registration:  Please e-mail Sue Trakas at and indicate your name, college/university, and phone number. Registration deadline is Friday, September 11, 2015.

Kent State University

Date: Friday, October 2, 2015

Time: 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Location: Kent State University – Kent Campus (Kent, Ohio)

Seats Available: 10; Registration closes 9/21/15

Registration: To register online please go to

You will be sent an email one week prior to the workshop to confirm event details including parking information. If you have any additional questions, please contact Jason Piatt at

A Quality Matters Bite-Sized Workshop

In related news, please join Cheryl Knight at Metro Campus for “QM Lite:  Intro to QM Workshop.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 4:30-6pm in the brand new Center for Learning Excellence on the Metropolitan campus, MBA113

Join Senior Instructional Designer, Cheryl Knight, to learn more about Quality Matters (QM). Cheryl is a certified Peer Reviewer and Face to Face Facilitator, and she will discuss what it means to have your course QM prepped and reviewed at Tri-C. Instructors at various stages of QM prep will share with you their experiences. And there will be plenty of time for questions throughout. This is for instructors teaching blended and/or online course(s), or wishing to in the near future.

Sign up for this workshop on TEC by navigating to the system, selecting the learning tab at the top, scroll to browse for training, and look for QM Lite CLE1029. This is worth 1 service credit and 1 SEU adjunct credit.

Please contact Cheryl Knight at 216-987-4979 or by e-mail at with any questions.

Two Tri-C Professors Earn QM Recognition for Their Courses!

Congratulations to Professors Mike Piero and Raj Mohan on having their courses Quality Matters recognized this summer!

Professor Mike Piero’s course English 2360, British Literature II, received QM recognition.  Previously Professor Piero achieved QM recognition for his English 1020 course.

Professor Raj Mohan’s Course English 1020 achieved QM recognition.  This is the second course that Professor Mohan has had recognized by Quality Matters – she also has had English 1010 recognized.

What does earning Official QM recognition mean? 

The Quality Matters Rubric is a set of 8 general standards and 41 specific standards used to evaluate the design of online and blended courses.  To become officially QM Recognized a course: 1) Completed review by a 3-person trained team, including one Master Reviewer, one Subject Matter expert and at least one External Reviewer), 2) Meet All of the 3-Point essential standards, and 3) Earn a total overall score of 81 out of 95 points.  Learn more about the course review process on QM’s site here:

Please join us in congratulating Professors Mike Piero and Raj Mohan for their excellent work on behalf of student success online.  The Quality Matters recognition process is a rigorous one, and both have had a huge commitment to the design and building of their courses.  I’d also like to congratulate our instructional designers who worked with them to prepare – Cheryl Knight form Metro Campus, and Rachel Harmon from Westshore Campus.

Want to get involved?

If you are interested in getting more involved with Quality Matters at Tri-C, please contact



Blackboard Important Updates for Faculty – Start of Term

A few important updates for the beginning of the new summer term are below.  If you use Blackboard for any modality (online, blended/hybrid or as a supplement to your F2F course) please read the entire post as it may greatly assist your Fall setup.

  • YouTube Videos: As you may have been aware, this summer there was a national problem with YouTube videos that were added to Blackboard using the Mashup tool.  Blackboard recently released a fix which we tested and then implemented in our system.  YouTube videos that have been added to courses through the Mashup tool should now work!
  • On the public Tri-C website we now have updated resources for faculty in a by-technology format.  Find that here:  It includes help documentation and how-tos on:  Blackboard, Softchalk, Adobe Connect, Respondus, Camtasia Relay, publisher information, and Sharestream (still in a relatively Beta rollout.)
  • You will now find links to these faculty tools after logging into Blackboard now that the Blackboard Tab is no longer on My Tri-C Space.  These links are located in the left-hand channel:
    • Course Site Request (courses are not created automatically, you need to request their creation)
    • Cartridge Load Request Form
    • Blackboard Incompletes Tool
    • Manage Blackboard Support Users
    • Bb Server Status Log
    • Respondus & Studymate Author Download
    • We encourage you to watch the brief video about Global Navigation located just above those resources as it greatly improves how you can manage your courses including filtering discussion board posts from multiple courses and notifications when students submit assignments.
  • Questions Re: TFOL Faculty Training: If you have questions for TFOL (Teaching for Online Learning aka Blackboard) training for Fall 2015, please contact Dr. Charles Dull at:
  • ITS, TechNow, and Blackboard Help: ITS is now running Blackboard help, branded TechNow in combination with other college technology support.  You can still contact help for Blackboard at the same number:  (216) 987-4257.
  • In related news, you may have noticed that the company Blackboard may be exploring a sale.  Blackboard has been sold before, most recently in 2011. An acquisition would impact them at a corporate and structural level and should not change your day-to-day experience.  All of your files and content will be maintained in the same way.

As always, please “Follow” us by entering your email into the field on the left-hand sidebar of the eLi blog at (picture on left.)  You’ll receive automatic emails when news and upgrade notices are posted.

Have a great start of term!  – Sasha

Gamified FYE Course Sessions

Are you at East or West Campus today?  We’ll be sharing the prototype of the Gamified version of the FYE course.  The course will be available to request for the second 8-week fall semester.

West Campus

  • Location:  WSS GO4-B
  • 3:00 – 3:4 0 PM
  • 3:50 – 4:30 PM

East Campus

  • Location:  East Center for Learning Excellence
  • 4:30 – 5:00 PM

Can’t make it to one of the sessions?  Don’t worry!  Find information about the course, the reasons why it’s being created, and view Quest 1:  College and Career Planning.  Check out the Blendspace curation used for the presentation below:

cuyahoga community college


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