What Students really think about Online Learning

What do students really think about online learning—do they love it? Hate it? Numerous reports and articles about online learning provide data on enrollment rates, perceived learning and more. But it’s the unedited, raw comments of actual students, as I wrote about in my last post that is invaluable to course instructors, designers and online educators. I’ll share in this post student comments and suggestions for supporting students in light of their feedback.

Below is a collection of [select] student feedback from anonymous feedback submissions from online surveys given at the end of fully online courses for credit. Responses are unedited. It’s telling of how students really feel. Feedback is grouped into four categories: 1) interaction/learning community  2) technical  3) course design/structure  and 4) learning environment.

Overview of Program
Below you’ll find the most representative responses from 115  student feedback forms from a possible 236 students (49% response rate). Also note, feedback is from a small program—15 courses, general education, for credit, with video lectures as the main content delivery method. LMS platform is Moodle. Responses below to open-ended questions, either ‘what did you like ‘least’ about the course, and ‘what did you like best about the course’.

Learning Environment

  • “..the online environment, definitely will be taking courses in person for [next] semesters” [response to ‘what you like least…]
  • The online environment, I tried it but I will most definitely be taking courses in person from now on. I have found that I struggle with time management and would benefit from scheduled class meetings.”
  • “it was a little rough at the beginning to understand the instructions. A little more clarity at the beginning would be helpful.”
  • “I would benefit a lot more from scheduled class meetings, personally struggled with time management.”
  • “I liked the course because it was easier to complete all of the work. I was able to do everything on my own time with a deadline at the end of the week. I also liked the weekly discussion boards.”
  • “that i could take it at my own pace”
  • “I really appreciated this course being offered in the online format. It allowed me to fit it into my schedule easily…”

Interaction/learning community

  • “I hate the class discussions, but I understand its to make it more interactive but I wish they weren’t there. They could just be assignments.”
  • “I loved the personal classroom feel of the videos and the message board posting assignments.”
  • “The lack of ability to interact.”
  • ..Well it is online. So I wish I had more live interaction with students even if was view a Skype class time.”
  • “It was an efficient alternative to taking the class physically.”
  • The group project. I chose this course because I don’t have time, working, school, and running a household to work with other people. I work best alone and was not able to participate much.”

Course Design/Structure

  • “I would want the flow of the course to be more smooth and logically structured rather than separated by blocks and topics that must be covered. Also, I wish some questions on quizzes were more clear and not misleading.”
  • “Some of the lectures were long, but that’s just me and my attention span.”

Technical Issues

  • “I wish I could have been able to download the videos so I could watch more of them in the time I had. It would have been nice if I could put them on the mobile device.”
  • “I enjoyed watching the videos at my convenience but I wish I could have downloaded them since the local weather often interfered with my ability to stream the videos.”
  • “…please make more of the videos downloadable for mobile devices like Kindle fire, androids, iPad, etc.”
  • “….online program is good, but honestly and with all respect, not great. I was not able to get any mobile application (iPad) to work ….that is a major setback in that many online students take courses because of the flexibility it offers”


  • Students are demanding mobile learning options.
  • Time management appears to be a factor for those struggling with online learning.
  • Numerous students mention the flexibility of online learning as a positive factor.
  • Majority of students want interaction and personal connection.
  • Effective course design is needed for clarity of instructions, and ease of navigation within the course environment (being able to find resources, instructions easily).

Related Post:
Click here for previous post, How unfavorable student feedback improves online courses, which provides tips and resources for creating student feedback surveys.