Crafting the Experience of Online Education: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Quality

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Catherine Fallona, PhD

Second Advisor

Andrea Stairs-Davenport, PhD

Third Advisor

Suzan Nelson


Online education today is on the front lines of the massive changes in society brought on by the rise of the Internet and its impact on how knowledge is constructed, who controls it, and how these changes affect higher education. For students and educators, developing a more robust definition of quality in online education is a potential tool to help educators increase access and equity as well as respond to a rapidly changing Internet-based society.

The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning, and it focused specifically on those elements of the experience of online education that students found to be engaging, motivational, and transformative.

This study employed an explanatory sequential design approach, a two-phase mixed methods design. The first phase began with quantitative data collection using a survey instrument to map constructivist features of learning environments. The second phase of the study employed individual interviews to explore the specific online learning experiences of twelve students and the online teaching experiences of nine faculty members.

The findings from the study identified a number of areas relating to course design and teaching practice that differentiated low engagement from high engagement online courses. Seven guiding practices for instruction emerged from the study: ( 1) develop the guiding vision; (2) set clear expectations; (3) make clear the purpose of the learning; ( 4) build the learning culture; (5) empower students with choice; (6) incorporate active experimentation and feedback loops; and (7) connect the learning.


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