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7 Ways to Measure Successful Online Student Learning – Part 1

You spend a lot of time working on your course material. In your mind, you’ve built this incredible resource. It’s your Frankenstein and, over course, you think, “My students should be grateful that I exist!” followed by a Vincent Price evil sounding laugh…ha ha ha.

That may be what you are thinking, but how do you accurately verify your students are learning and getting what they need from your materials?

If we look at traditional learning, we typically assume that if the student isn’t learning, it’s their fault. A high school student thinking the course material or instructor sucks isn’t really taken seriously.

But let’s not allow this to cloud our thinking.

Adult learners are voluntarily signing up to learn something via your course. There are many other things they could be doing, but they chose to sign up for yours. These are busy people that have a goal in mind and they see your course as the way to do that. Just like the high schooler, they can feel like some parts of a course don’t work. It may be putting them off. If they aren’t getting the results they were hoping to get, they’re likely to blame you. And you, the course author, should be all ears.

The problem is you won’t typically hear the feedback. They’ll just disappear or cancel their subscription and you won’t ever know why.

So what steps can you take to get that feedback and measure the success you are getting? How do you know the shortcomings in your course materials so you can improve the student learning experience? How do you get the information you need from your students? Are they getting what it is they were wanting when they signed up?

Let’s explore seven steps for measuring the success of your course materials in a very concrete way so you can take action to make improvements.

1. Quzzes / Assessments

In school, tests and quizzes were a negative. They were the way to determine if you were “getting it” and to get you a grade on your report card. If you passed the test, the assumption is you understand the material. If not, you didn’t learn anything.
Quizzing students in an online class should be seen a part of the learning process. If a student goes through a short, well-written multiple choice quiz, they should walk away thinking one of the following:

  1. I understand the material in the lesson. Let’s move on.
  2. I didn’t understand the material. Let me go back and check.
  3. That quiz answer is interesting. I didn’t catch that. Maybe I should dig into it some more.

It isn’t a way to determine pass or fail. It’s a way for learners to check their progress. They can use them to make sure they’re properly understanding the material.

2. Course progress.

As an instructor, you have a good idea of the amount of time it should take someone to get through a lesson. Some courses are designed to be finished in a week. Some take weeks. Others take months or longer.

If learners are falling behind your expected timeline, what does that tell you? Are there steps you can take to find out why? Do these students need encouragement? Are they missing some learning that is holding them back? Can you get information from the stragglers and take action to address that?

If there are people moving along quickly, can you take actions that encourage them or give them some sort of recognition?
If you measure the time it takes your students to get through your material, you can use this information to make adjustments, intervene and alter the student experience to address any issues.

3. Course completion.

A course author’s goal should be to make sure students complete your course. That’s usually a priority. If, however, students are not completing the course, why is that?

I run into a lot of course builders that put too much content into a course. Many times it’s because they want to give as much value as possible. Sometimes too much content in one course is a bad thing. Your student may be wanting to learn one specific thing and you went overboard on them.

Other times, a long course can be overwhelming. Life gets in their way. They intended to get through the material and because it’s so long they get frustrated and quit.

Consider cutting up a longer course into several mini-courses. Make it a single course with a part 1, part 2, part x. That enables students to reach milestones giving them a sense of accomplishment that can keep them motivated. That can then give them the confidence to continue.

Consider what restructuring your course into smaller sections could do for the student’s learning experience.

Check out part 2 of this article where we cover the remaining 4 ways to measure student success through your course.