Investigation of Interaction, Online Support, Course Structure and Flexibility as the Contributing Factors to Students' Satisfaction in an Online Certificate Program


EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY, vol.11, no.4, pp.51-65, 2008 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 11 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index
  • Page Numbers: pp.51-65
  • Keywords: Online learner satisfaction, Online interaction, Online support, Online course structure, Online flexibility, DISTANCE


The purpose of the study is to investigate some of the factors that contribute to satisfaction of participants in an online Information Technologies Certificate Program (ITCP). The program includes eight courses and lasts four semesters. The sample consisted of 30 participants who enrolled to the program and 8 instructors who gave the courses in this program in 2004-2005. The data was collected through both qualitative and quantitative methods. An online questionnaire was used to gather data on participants' satisfaction about the program, semi-structured interviews were conducted with both the participants and the instructors to analyze the factors that contribute to satisfaction in the program, and asynchronous and synchronous communication transcripts were examined to support the findings. Descriptive statistics were reported upon the participants' satisfaction in regard to learner-learner interaction, learner-instructor interaction, course structure, institutional support, and flexibility. A repeated measure analysis test was utilized to see the changes in the participants' satisfaction throughout this online program based on semester one, two, three, and four. The results of the study showed that even though the participants' overall satisfaction was generally positive, it decreased significantly toward the final semesters of the program. The findings highlighted some of the critical issues such as "learning community formation through interaction, well structured and guided project or problem-based group activities, considering instructional design and cognitive principles in the design of the program, and flexibility in time and selection of the courses" that should be taken into account in designing online programs.