Student’s Perceptions on Effective Teaching In Higher Education

At the University of Wisconsin’s 25th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference a study was presented titled Student’s Perceptions on Effective Teaching In Higher Education . The study provides a list of characteristics that students identified as “behaviors that demonstrate effectiveness in teaching.”

The study included both face-to-face and online classes. The same nine characteristics show up on both lists, although the order is a little different. In the face-to-face classes the list was:

  1. Respectful
  2. Knowledgeable
  3. Approachable
  4. Engaging
  5. Communicative
  6. Organized
  7. Responsive
  8. Professional
  9. Humorous

In the online classes the list was:

  1. Respectful
  2. Responsive
  3. Knowledgeable
  4. Approachable
  5. Communicative
  6. Organized
  7. Engaging
  8. Professional
  9. Humorous

It is no surprise that Respectful tops the list and that in online classes, being responsive shows up as number two.

The literature review is also very valuable. An example is the report on Axelrod (2008) who points out that historically students have considered the following items to be important in effective teaching:

  1. accessibility and approachability
  2. fairness
  3. open-mindedness
  4. mastery and delivery
  5. enthusiasm
  6. humor
  7. knowledge and inspiration imparted

The Distance Education website for the University of Wisconsin provides an outstanding list of professional development resources in distance education and e-learning.

Online Sources For Images

Larry Ferlazzo’s blog on The Best Online Sources For Images provides a great list of links to sites where free graphics and free photos can be found, downloaded, and used in instructional materials. If you are looking for clip art or photo, there are plenty of resources available to enhance your presentations.

Faculty Articles – April 2011

In an Advanced E-Learning class at Nazarene Bible College faculty members wrote a paper on a subject related to online learning. With their permission the papers are available for you read.

Developing Critical and Autonomous Thinkers in E-Learning by Anna-Marie Lockard

Online Learning for K-12 Students by Barbara Culbertson

Multiple Intelligences Theory in the Online Environment by Barry Wilson

Character Development and Online Education by David Ackerman

Ethics of the Student’s Post by John scherer

Instructional Design Competencies

The International Board of Standards for Training, Performance, and Instruction (ibstpi) first developed a list of Instructional Design Competencies since 1986. The 2000 edition of Instructional Design Competencies contains 23 competencies under four specific headings: Professional Foundations, Planning and Analysis, Design and Development, and Implementation and Management.

As an example of the issues considered essential ibstpi lists under “Professional Foundations” the importance of “updating and improving one’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes pertaining to instructional design and related fields.” With all the advances being made in educational theory, understandings of how people learn, and the use of technology to enhance learning it is indeed vital that those individuals involved in designing instructional materials stay current in their understanding of the research and new methodologies.

Under the heading of “Planning and Analysis” they list as essential the ability to “identify and describe target population characteristics.” Developing content with a ‘one size fits all’ strategy defies the research that shows that people are different and learn in different ways. Knowing as much as you can about the people who will be receiving the instruction will provide significant insights in how to design the instruction to maximize the learning potential. Under the “Design and Development” heading the essential competency “design instruction that reflects an understanding of the diversity of learners and groups of learners” reinforces the importance of a design strategy that meets the various learning styles of all the students.

While it has been common for instructors to design course materials independently ibstpi points out under the heading of “Implementation and Management” the importance having multiple people involved in good design by pointing out that the more advanced instructional designers will “promote collaboration, partnerships, and relationships among the participants in a design project.

The entire list of competencies is worth reviewing and giving time for reflection. Teaching is an art and science, and having a better understanding of the competencies considered essential in course design work will help us all to be more successful.

The ibstpi also has a list of Instructor Competencies that is with reviewing.

Another resource that you will find helpful is a PDF document by About Learning titled a Guide to Using Student Learning Styles to Differentiate Instruction.

Evaluation of Online Learning

An article published by the U.S. Department of Education (September 2010) titled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies reviews “the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 which identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning.” There were four specific research questions asked:

  1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?
  2. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?
  3. What practices are associated with more effective online learning?
  4. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?

The article admits that research into the effectiveness of online learning is still limited and the study will benefit from continued research and study. However, with the limited results there are some conclusions that provide optimism for those engaged in providing online programs.

In the executive summary the meta-analysis found:

  • Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.
  • Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.
  • Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online instruction was collaborative or instructor-directed than in those studies where online learners worked independently.
  • Most of the variations in the way in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly.
  • The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types.
  • Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online and face-to-face conditions varied in terms of curriculum materials and aspects of instructional approach in addition to the medium of instruction.

The summary suggests the following:

  • Blended and purely online learning conditions implemented within a single study generally result in similar student learning outcomes. When a study contrasts blended and purely online conditions, student learning is usually comparable across the two conditions.
  • Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes. The research does not support the use of some frequently recommended online learning practices. Inclusion of more media in an online application does not appear to enhance learning. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than other tactics such as assigning homework.
  • Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection. Studies indicate that manipulations that trigger learner activity or learner reflection and self-monitoring of understanding are effective when students pursue online learning as individuals.
  • Providing guidance for learning for groups of students appears less successful than does using such mechanisms with individual learners. When groups of students are learning together online, support mechanisms such as guiding questions generally influence the way students interact, but not the amount they learn.

Adult Learners a New Tradition in Higher Education

The Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education has issued a paper titled Hidden in Plain Sight: Adult Learners Forge a New Tradition in Higher Education by Peter J. Stokes. Stokes begins the paper by saying,

“Although ‘traditional’ 18-22 year-old full-time undergraduate students residing on campus account for only 16% of higher education enrollments, the attention given to this group of students obscures the fact that the vast majority of college and university students are “non-traditional” – largely working adults struggling to balance jobs, families, and education. This paper examines how colleges and universities – supported by effective policy – can better align their educational offerings to meet the needs of adult learners and thereby play a critical role in increasing access to higher education and sustaining the health of our economy.”

He highlights the problem by pointing out that “less than three million of the more than 17 million students enrolled today” are those most often considered to be a traditional college student (18-22 years of age). The vast majority of individuals enrolled in higher education institutions are part-time students, working part or full-time, and married (often with children). Yet, he states that “Although adult learners are everywhere in higher education, they remain invisible – hidden in plain sight – and curiously absent from many of the dialogues concerning the purpose and mission of higher education.”

He provides three primary areas where colleges and universities must adjust their practices if they are going to meet the needs of these adult learners.

  1. Adult learners require easier transfer of credit from institution to institution.
  2. Adult learners require more flexible course, certificate, and degree programs.
  3. Adult learners studying less than half-time require more flexible financial aid policies.

Stokes also points out the place that online learning has in meeting the needs of adult learners. While his figures are a bit dated, the current data only reinforces his contention that the adult learner market is increasingly choosing completely online programs as the delivery system of choice.

He concludes by saying:

“For higher education institutions to effectively mobilize to meet our real education needs, it will be necessary first to recognize the diverse faces of higher education – and that means recognizing the extent to which adult learners are the future of higher education.”

Improving student learning

With the advances made in instructional technology, education at all levels has changed forever. While most of us are focused on higher education and many of us have had our primary learning experience in what we might think of as traditional education, it is important that we consider what is now taking place in many learning situations, including elementary and secondary education. Tomorrow’s students in higher education will enter the college classroom with a different set up expectations than most of us did.

Finding good sources is always a key for me and today I want to share a couple that I came across this week. The first is a site titled: Classroom Conference: Using the Internet to Teach.

The article states:

“The Internet is an awesome tool for teachers in the 21st century. Along with saving time for students and teachers, the Internet provides a vast variety of information that was previously next to impossible to reasonably obtain. There are sites for creative learning methods, communication, and travel. Using the Internet in the classroom is a priceless tool, and there are a variety of topics that help enable learning online.”

There are a number of resources listed under the headings of:

  • Teacher Research and Idea Sharing
  • Student Research
  • Reviewing Concepts
  • Utilizing Primary Sources
  • Cyber Field Trips
  • Video Streaming
  • Meeting the Needs of All Learners
  • Class Websites
  • Global Learning

When we realize the most of the students that we will face in our classrooms (face-to-face or online) will have become accustom to a whole new world of learning with technology, we will begin see how our teaching must change to include a more interactive learning experience.

With this in mind, one of our first concerns is going to be not only finding reliable resources, but helping our students to achieve a strong background in Information Literacy. An article in News Trust: Your guide to good journalism, titled: Teacher Guides: Can You Trust the News?, provides a guide on how you can teach your students to recognize good journalism. This has now become the responsibility of every instructor in every class!

The article begins:

“Today’s students are coming of age during unprecedented changes in how we consume news and information. They have access to worlds of knowledge other generations could hardly have imagined. In order to effectively use this knowledge and make well-informed decisions as citizens, they must first learn to be discerning about the information they consume. As educators, it’s our responsibility to nurture critical thinking skills and a healthy skepticism to help them reach that goal – along with an appreciation for quality journalism. To that end, NewsTrust has created a set of teacher guides that will help you teach your students the difference between good and bad journalism”

An example of one of the resources highlighted is a good artile on how to determine if the information found on the Internet is reliable (Howard Rheingold (2009) Crap Detection 101. San Francisco Chronicle).

2010 Online Education in the United States

The 2010 Online Education in the United States report by I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, made available by The Sloan Consortium is out and contains more helpful information on the growth and acceptance of online programs. This annual report contains historical evaluation of several questions annually monitored.


The question on how strategic online learning is for the institution increased slightly this year to 63% of the reporting institutions. While the private non-profit sector also increased, it is just over 50%, while the public sector is over 70% (p. 4).


Then number of students taking at least one online class during the fall 2009 term increased by almost one million to a total of 5.6 million a 21% increase over the previous year. The report points out that this is significantly higher than the “2% growth rate in overall higher education student population” (p. 2). This results in nearly 30% of the higher education students taking at least one online class, up nearly ten percentage points in four years.


In an article published in 2006 (Data File – Real-Time Collaboration (Feb 07) by Sam S. Adkins) a projection is made in a report from the US Market for US Self-paced eLearning Produces and Services: 2006-2011 Forecast and Analysis, Ambient Insight, that “75-80% of all US post-secondary students will be full or part-time online students by 2016. Using the historical data included in the Sloan report, the average annual rate of online growth over the past eight years has been 19.76%, while the average rate of total enrollment has been 1.89%. If that average rate of growth for both the total enrollment and online growth continues, the online enrollment as a percentage of total enrollments will be 77.28% in 2016. This certainly appears to support the 2006 predictions. The lowest annual growth rate took place in 2006 and was 9.7%. If the growth rate in the coming years is only 10% annually, the online enrollment as a percentage of the total enrollment will still be over 50%.


The question regarding how well online students do in accomplishing the learning outcomes compared to students in face-to-face classes reveals that 75% of those in public institutions believe that online is as good or better than face-to-face instruction. The number in the non-profit sector is only 55.4%. However, this statistic is not a real surprise when evaluated along side of the statics regarding schools offering online programs. The schools that actually offer online courses tend to rate the learning experience as superior or the same as face-to-face, while the schools that have no offerings then rate the online experience as inferior. Since the public institutions make greater use of online offerings, it makes sense that they would have a higher opinion of the quality of the online learning.

The entire report is worth reading.

Helpful Links

Here are a few helpful links that I came across this morning:

If you are looking for some helpful tools, Cool Tools For Schools provides a list of links with many tools related to Photo, Video, Slide Shows, Graphics, and Web 2.0 Applications Lists.

Looking for some free books to read? has a list of 50 Places to Find Free Books Online.

Are you involved in Social Media for marketing? Here is a tool you might find helpful to organize and schedule your Facebook updates and tweets. Garious is advertised a way to schedule all your social media with a single application.

A Creative Rubric

A colleague of mine at Trevecca Nazarene University, Dr. Richard L. Parrott, created a rather unique and creative rubric for a class he is teaching in the online Master of Organizational Leadership program at TNU. The class is on Organizational Culture, one of twelve courses in this graduate program. His rubric is clear and informing. It also contains personality, something that can get lost in rubrics. It is presented here with his permission.

Grading Rubric

  • 10 – WOW! You took this seriously, put your heart and mind into it, and it shows. You included insights from the text, the lectures, Scripture, and sources beyond the course.

  • 8 – Not bad! This is what I would expect and you have done a good job. You even used a few insights from within the course, text, and lectures.

  • 6 – Come one! You can do better than this and you know you can. I mean only one lonely insight from either a text of a lecture. My, my, my; did your study schedule get messed up? You want to do this over for a better grade?

  • 4 – Really! You better give me a call. We need to talk. How can I help?