Online Courses: What Students Want
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Find Out What Students Want From Your Online Courses

It doesn’t matter how great your online course content is or how you believe people love learning… if your students don’t enjoy the experience and they are leaving your course before you can even deliver all the great information you have to share, you’re already losing the game.

Most of the time, success in online education has nothing to do with your expertise or how many great videos and interactivities you can add to a course. Impactful online learning experiences depend on addressing your student’s pain points, answering their questions, and helping them apply what they have learned and achieved to their desired outcomes in life and business.

Have you ever stopped to think about what your students really want? What are they looking for in a course? What do they like? What do they dislike? What makes them keep coming back to your course? Obviously, each learner is different, but you need to find a way to meet their varying learning styles, expectations, and preferences.

Modern students are very different from what they were five years ago. In the past, knowledge was of great value, today everything is “googlable.” So, if your course doesn’t offer an extraordinary transformation that they can't find anywhere else, why buy your course?

After all, modern students expect modern technology, user-friendly experiences, and on-demand, micro-content they can access anytime. Think about it. They interact with businesses and services that use modern technology every day. They want to be able to access the personalized information they need whenever they need it, on all their devices.

This article will breakdown what online students really want.

1. Students Want To Access Courses On Their Mobile Devices

Today’s students use their smartphones and tablets heavily and they expect their courses to be available wherever they are. Not only do they use these devices to search for courses but they want to use them when doing their coursework.

According to a study conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research, 70% of online college students said they would want some or most of the course activities offered on mobile devices.

This indicates that if you want to attract and retain learners, you need to ensure your course materials are optimized for any mobile device. Some of your students also like to use desktops or laptops sometimes, so delivering responsive courses is key.

2. Students Want Relevant, Actionable Content, Not Just Theory

You may know a lot of the theory surrounding the subject matter but resist the urge to pack your course with “nice-to-know,” theoretical material. Students want “must-know,” relevant information which they can apply to their daily lives. They want to know how to get ahead in their careers or accelerate their business using practical steps. They want marketable skills they can add to their resume.

This doesn’t mean that you have to ignore theory, but you need to find a way to connect it to students’ lives. Relevance is established by showing how theory can be applied in real situations, exposing local case studies, or finding applications in current newsworthy issues.

If they can’t see how it’s relevant, they’re unlikely to learn it. Even if they do retain it so they can pass the assessment, they’ll likely forget about it soon after. However, if they learn how to do something they consider valuable, they’re more likely to retain the information for a long time, complete the course, achieve their goals, and give you positive reviews.

3. Students Want Opportunities For Collaboration And Connection

Even when there is no face-to-face interaction, online students still want to build relationships with their classmates and the instructor. They don’t want to feel like they are alone on their learning journey.

Furthermore, learners often pick up concepts faster when they can collaborate. This means you need to use the tools available in your Learning Management System or learning platform as well as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn groups to keep the communication flowing. It can be a challenge to build a community with students who are in varying locations and time zones, but you need to provide an easy way for them to share, participate and learn from each other.

4. Students Expect A Great User Experience

Your students already use a number of websites and tools which offer phenomenal User Experience—think Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify—and your course shouldn’t pale in comparison. Research from the Learning Technology Research (LTR) Project confirms just how important this is. Students don’t only want excellent content. They want to be able to find and consume that content easily. If the course material is cluttered, unattractive, or confusing to access, students are unlikely to complete the course or recommend it to others.

To create a user-friendly experience, ensure that you have a modern interface that is easy to use. Try to incorporate familiar methods of interaction and navigation which are used in other apps so students can easily find their way around the platform. You also need to simplify how students access manuals, worksheets, and other content. Grouping them into curricula or programs and ensuring excellent search and tagging capabilities can go a long way.

5. Students Want Clear Results and Outcomes

Students don’t take courses simply for the sake of taking them. They want to change behavior, update their knowledge base, develop new skills, etc. You need to show them how each module and the entire course will help them to achieve their goals. What will they be able to do after each step that they weren’t able to do before?

There are 2 ways you can make your results and outcomes clear to students:

  1. Structure your course outline smartly
    Start by listing all the skills you want learners to gain by the end of the course and then place them in the order which would be most useful for students. This will be the draft form of your course outline since each section of your course should teach students a new skill. When completed, the outline should give students a clear understanding of how the course will help them.
  2. Include early opportunities for students to get results so they will see the value of the course
    Don’t get too bogged down in theory and abstract concepts. Instead, allow learners to achieve some small wins and give them skills they can use right away. This applies no matter what subject the course covers.

Attracting and retaining online students is challenging but the above strategies will help you to create a successful course. While you may already know what you want to teach students, you also need to take the time to learn what they want to learn and how they want to learn. Do this and you’ll be better able to meet their needs and expectations!

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