Student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning experiences


  • Michael E. Ward The University of Southern Mississippi
  • Gary Peters The University of Southern Mississippi
  • Kyna Shelley The University of Southern Mississippi



*INTERNET in education *DISCUSSION in education *WEB-based instruction *ONLINE courses *INSTRUCTIONAL EFFECTIVENESS in higher education


Some faculty members are reluctant to offer online courses because of significant concerns relative to the impact of such formats on the quality of instruction, learning, and participant interaction. Faculty members from The University of Southern Mississippi implemented synchronous interactive online instruction (SIOI) in the spring of 2007. This article explores the rationale for use of the particular technology, faculty conclusions regarding implementation of the technology, and the impact of the technology on instruction and learning. Comparisons by students of the quality of the learning experience in this environment with the quality of learning in face-to-face and asynchronous online learning environments were also analyzed. The study finds that instructors and students view SIOI favourably. The mean student ratings for the dimensions of instructional quality were the same for SIOI and face-to-face course formats in all but one dimension, but mean ratings for SIOI and face-to-face formats were consistently higher than those for asynchronous online instruction. The single exception was for the dimension, ease of access to the course; the SIOI and asynchronous online formats were rated higher than the face-to-face format in this quality dimension. These findings suggest that it is possible to achieve levels of effectiveness in an online instructional format similar to those that are realized in face-to-face delivery. However, there is slight, though not statistically significant, evidence of concern about the quality of student collaboration in SIOI-enabled courses. Thus, instructors will need to capitalize on available mechanisms for interaction and collaboration.

Author Biographies

Michael E. Ward, The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Mike Ward is an associate member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership and School Counseling at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Gary Peters, The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Gary B. Peters is an Associate Professor in the Leadership, Special Education, and Foundations Department at The University of Alabama in Birmingham. Teaching areas include Leadership and Organizational Theory, Problem Solving and Decision Making, and the Administration of Educational Programs. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (2000), his Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from the University of Alabama (1998), his MA in Urban Teacher Education from Governors State University (1978), his MRE in Religious Education from Temple Seminary (1977), and his BA in Communication Science from Governors State University (1974). Prior to his appointment at the University of Southern Mississippi, he was Project Coordinator for Project LEAD at the University of Alabama. This unique partnership between the Birmingham City Schools and the University of Alabama provided tuition and stipends for aspiring teachers to pursue graduate studies in educational administration. The opportunity to work with community leaders, university faculty and administrators, as well as various state and federal agencies proved to be a challenging but rewarding experience. Before entering the professorate Dr. Peters was a teacher and administrator with over 20 years experience in both middle and high school settings. His administrative career include experiences in state government task force initiatives, strategic planning sessions with business and education communities, writing and research endeavors, and professional presentations. His work in implementing clinical supervision models for teacher assessment, adaptation of decision making models for education, and the advancement of professional development programs, are still works in progress. Dr. Peters is a qualitative researcher who is frequently asked to assist students in designing qualitative studies for their doctoral dissertations. His cross-disciplinary collaborations seek to develop innovative approaches to data sharing. Peters believes qualitative researchers attempt to understand meanings that people give to their deeds or to social phenomena. In other words, these researchers see people from the inside. Dr. Peters is a member of Phi Delta Kappa, Mid-South Educational Research Association, Southern Regional Council on Education Administration, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Council for the Professors of Educational Administration, American Council for Teacher Education Programs, and the Mississippi Educational Involvement Initiative. He resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with his wife and three sons.

Kyna Shelley, The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Kyna Shelley is a professor in the Department of Educational Studies and Research at the University of Southern Mississippi.



How to Cite

Ward, M. E., Peters, G., & Shelley, K. (2010). Student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning experiences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 11(3), 57–77.



Research Articles