Making online course navigation more transparent and information more easily accessible results in more satisfied students and reduced faculty workload.
An online general psychology course was reviewed in the Quality Matters review process and found to be deficient in course navigation (QM rubric standard I.1). The course was revised in two relatively simple ways: the navigational design and instructions were simplified and streamlined, and the navigation bar was redesigned. This revision process occurred as part of a Quality Matters research project. The goal of the project was to investigate the value of course navigation directions (QM standard I.1), specifically whether making changes to course navigation directions will impact student learning outcomes, and if so, how. Outcomes to be assessed included satisfaction with course, ease of use of course and retention implications of a simplified navigation and instructions for beginning the course.
The research questions focused on whether changes to an online course made following a Quality Matters peer-review would impact satisfaction. Researchers used a pre/post test design which examined four sections of an introductory online psychology course. Two sections were enrolled prior to the QM review with two sections forming the post-test group. Changes to the navigation bar in the Blackboard-delivered course and to the organization of introductory material were made between semesters, while other elements of the courses were held constant. Students enrolled in the online sections voluntarily and did not receive extra credit for completing the evaluation. Students were told about the study and given the option of excluding their questions and information. Student satisfaction was measured relative to ease of navigation and ease of locating course information. Analysis of preliminary data indicated that small changes in navigation can positively impact both satisfaction and access. Examination of the preliminary data, using a T-test, showed fewer questions and higher satisfaction. Anecdotally, the instructor reported at a (2006 MDLA) conference presentation that student questions were reduced greatly, by as much as 90% or so. This suggests that improving course navigation appreciably reduced the course management load on the instructor. Future research will examine the impact of course navigation on student retention if related institutional barriers to data collection can be overcome.
Finley, D., & Maslak, K. (2006). Does Quality Matter in Online Courses? American Psychological Association 2006 conference, New Orleans, LA, August 2006.