College Students in Short Online Course Perform Better than in Semester-Long Distance Class

A new study comparing short online courses with traditional, semester-long online classes finds college students in shorter classes, also known as accelerated online classes, perform much better academically.

However, the students are dissatisfied with the amount of teacher contact they receive.

Study authors Janet Ferguson of Canisius College and Amy DeFelice of City University of New York compared a group of graduate students taking a five-week online summer intensive course with those taking the same online class for a full semester. Both the short online course and the longer course were taught by the same instructor.

The study is believed to be the first comparing shorter versus longer online course formats. Among its findings:

• Students in the short online course performed significantly better academically than their full-semester peers.

The study authors suggest this performance difference could be due to students in accelerated online courses having material fresher in their minds during exams.

• Students in short online courses were less happy with the amount of communication they had with their instructors.

Ferguson and DeFelice chalked lower teacher-student interactions up to the teacher simply having less time in a five-week course to respond to students than is available during a full semester. You can read more about the study here: “Length of Online Course and Student Satisfaction, Perceived Learning, and Academic Performance” (study by Ferguson and DeFelice)

However, they recommend distance learning instructors focus on improving interaction with students during a short online course, using such methods as live chat rooms, threaded discussions, blogs, and more prompt email replies.

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