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Technical Brief: Student Perceptions of Online Learning

Student Perceptions of Online/Blended Learning

Technical Brief # 03

Please cite as:

UDI Online Project. (2010). Student perceptions of online/blended learning(Technical Brief # 03). Storrs: University of Connecticut, Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability. http://www.udi.uconn.edu



Students’ perceptions of online/blended learning are important to consider when designing and implementing an online course or using a technology component in a traditional course (blended). The benefits and challenges of the digital learning milieu must be addressed to meet students’ needs and to engage them in course activities. This brief highlights student perceptions of the benefits and challenges in the online/blended learning environment as stated in the literature.



  • Content Resources

    Students perceive the variety and quality of learning materials available in online/blended course environments to be the major benefit (Daughtery & Funke, 1998). Furthermore, online resources have the advantage of being current and extensive (Arafeh, Levin, Rainie, & Lenhart, 2002; Daughtery & Funke, 1998; Palmer & Holt, 2010; Sharp, Benfield, Roberts, & Francis, 2006) as well as easy to access (Daughtery & Funke, 1998). Students also recognize that online instructors can use the wealth of resources available to help students develop critical thinking skills and “allow them to see new ways of interpreting and evaluating information” (Daughtery & Funke, 1998).

  • Independent Learning

    Students also perceive the independent (self-pacing) nature of online courses to be a major benefit (Daughtery & Funke, 1998; El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007; Greener, 2008; Rodriguez, Rooms, & Montanez, 2008). In other words, students appreciate the ability to independently delve into the rich resources offered in the digital environment as a vehicle for developing their critical thinking skills. They also view the self-pacing offered in online courses as a convenience. In order to permit the online learning environment to be independently paced and rich in resources, the questions asked by instructors are inherently more open-ended than in traditional course formats. The open-ended nature of class discussions sparks student interest in the material (Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006). Students view learning in the digital environment as an important means to gain technology literacy skills while learning content is seen as a secondary benefit by students (Daughtery & Funke, 1998; Tanner, Noser, & Totaro, 2006).

  • Communication

    The final benefit perceived by students regarding online learning environments is the amount of communication among students and between the student and instructor (Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006; Daughtery & Funke, 1998; Roach & Lemasters, 2006; Sharpe et al., 2006). Students appreciate the collaborative dialogue fostered in online/blended courses. The type and flexibility of communication in these courses allow students to feel as though the instructor gives them more individualized attention (Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006; Daughtery & Funke, 1998; Greener, 2008).



  • Course Organization

    The literature identifies several challenges faced by students in the online learning environment. The first challenge is one of course structure. Online/blended courses that are not properly structured or administered can result in students feeling isolated or unsatisfied with the experience (Greener, 2008; Roach & Lemasters, 2006). The online learning environment needs to be structured with rich resources organized for activities that promote collaboration among students in order for students to feel engaged with each other and the course content. When students are not engaged, they do not feel that they have to do more than the minimum requirements specified for the online/blended course (Li & Akins, 2004).

  • Increased Workload

    Students also perceive a higher workload in online/blended courses which can partially be explained by poorly structured courses (Roach & Lemasters, 2006). The other explanation for this perception of a higher workload is that students generally are assessed more often in online learning environments (Conceicao, 2006).

  • Technology Issues

    Another challenge of the online learning environment stems from issues with technology (Greener, 2008). In particular, students are unsatisfied when they are unfamiliar with the technology used in the course (Greener, 2008; Rodriguez et al., 2008). Instructors need to create activities that allow students to utilize new technologies, but they also should realize that students’ technology literacy will vary. Also, students should not be penalized for their lack of technology skills if they have not had the opportunity to develop these skills.


Seven Tips for Students from Successful Online Students

Roper (2007) offered the following tips for students to enhance the likelihood of success in online courses. Instructors may find these tips useful when considering the design and delivery of their courses. Designing course activities that allow students to utilize the following tips will enhance the online learning experience.

  • Develop a time-management strategy;
  • Make the most of online discussions;
  • Use it or lose it (put knowledge you learn to practice!);
  • Make questions useful to your learning;
  • Stay motivated;
  • Communicate the instructional techniques that work for you; and
  • Make connections with fellow students.

Adapted from:

Roper, A. R. (2007). How students develop online learning skills. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 30(1), 62-65. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm07110.pdf


Works Cited

Akkoyunlu, B., & Yilmaz Soylu, M. (2006). A study on students’ views on blended learning environment. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 43-56. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED494342.pdf

Arafeh, S., Levin, D., Rainie, L., & Lenhart, A. (2002). The digital disconnect: The widening gap between internet-savvy students and their schools. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2002/The-Digital-Disconnect-The-widen...

Conceicao, S. C. O. (2006). Faculty lived experiences in the online environment. Adult Education Quarterly, 57(1), 26-45. doi: 10.1177/1059601106292247

Daugherty, D., & Funke, B. L. (1998). University faculty and student perceptions of web-based instruction. The Journal of Distance Education, 13(1), 21-39. Retrieved from http://www.jofde.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/134

El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007) Students’ positive and negative experiences in hybrid and online classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248.

Greener, S. L. (2008). Self-aware and self-directed: Student conceptions of blended learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4, 243-253. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol4no2/greener0608.pdf

Li, Q., & Akins, M. (2004). Sixteen myths about online teaching and learning in higher education: Don’t believe everything you hear. TechTrends, 49(4), 51-60. doi: 10.1007/BF02824111

Palmer, S., & Holt, D. (2010). Students' perceptions of the value of the elements of an online learning environment: Looking back in moving forward. Interactive Learning Environments, 18, 135-151.

Roach, V., & Lemasters, L. (2006) Satisfaction with online learning: A comparative descriptive study. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 5, 317-332. Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/5.3.7.pdf

Rodriguez, M. C., Rooms, A., & Montanez, M. (2008) Students’ perceptions of online-learning quality given comfort, motivation, satisfaction, and experience. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7, 105-125. Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/7.2.2.pdf

Roper, A. R. (2007). How students develop online learning skills. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 30(1), 62-65. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm07110.pdf

Sharp, R., Benfield, G., Roberts, G., & Francis, R. (2006). The undergraduate experience of blended e-learning: A review of the UK literature and practice. Retrieved from the Higher Education Academy website: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/ourwork/archive/blended...

Tanner, J. R., Noser, T. C., & Totaro, M. W. (2006). Business faculty and undergraduate students’ perceptions of online learning: A comparative study, Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(1), 29-40. Retrieved from http://jise.org/Issues/20/V20N1P029-abs.pdf


Other Suggested Readings

Rose, K. K. (2009). Student perceptions of the use of instructor-made videos in online and face-to-face classes. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5, 487-495. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol5no3/rose_0909.pdf

Tesone, D. V., & Ricci, P. (2008) Student perceptions of web-based instruction: A comparative analysis. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4, 317-324. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol4no3/tesone_0908.pdf