How do online course design features influence student performance?

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Given the rapid growth in online coursework within higher education, it is important to establish and validate quality standards for these courses. While many online learning quality rubrics do exist, thus far there has been little empirical evidence establishing a clear link between specific course design features and concrete, student-level course outcomes. In the current study, the authors develop an online course design assessment rubric that includes four areas, and explore the impact of each area on student end-of-semester performance in 23 online courses at two community colleges. The results indicate that the quality of interpersonal interaction within a course relates positively and significantly to student grades. Additional analyses based on course observation and interview data suggest that frequent and effective student-instructor interaction creates an online environment that encourages students to commit themselves to the course and perform at a stronger academic level.




Jaggars, S. S., & Xu, D. (2016). How do online course design features influence student performance? Computers and Education, 95, 270–284.

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