Student Perceptions: Importance of and Satisfaction With Aspects of an Online Biology Course

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Ken Curry

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences


Research of student satisfaction with various facets of an online biology course, as well as the perceived importance of these aspects, was conducted during the summer and fall 2004 semesters within a course, History of Biology, at a university in the southeastern United States. This research is based on the theory of transactional distance, which involves dialogue between the teacher and student, the physical environments of both the student and teacher, and the emotional environments of each. Student ratings of importance and satisfaction regarding aspects of convenience, grade earned/knowledge learned, emotional health, communication, and student support were collected toward the end of each semester, via the online course, using the researcher-designed Student Perceptions Survey. Statistics with repeated measures ANOVA, using an alpha of 0.05, determined differences between importance and satisfaction ratings for each of these aspects. Students perceived grade earned/knowledge learned to be the most important aspect of learning online, although it is not an aspect unique to online courses. All of the aspects included in the study were found to be at least somewhat important. Convenience was the aspect with which students were most satisfied, with students at least somewhat satisfied with the other aspects. Although convenience is an inherent strength of the online course format, instructors should be aware of how important it is to design requirements of the online class to help students acquire knowledge while allowing them to do so at their own pace. Well-structured content, prompt feedback, encouragement of quality student-instructor communication, and student support are all parts of a positive online course experience. The Student Perceptions Survey, created specifically for this research, can have substantial value both in the creation of new online courses and in the evaluation of pre-existing courses. It can provide important information that can be used in developing or modifying an online course, to determine whether revisions have been effective, or to assess changes in student perceptions. In addition, as changes in technology occur, the survey can be further revised, with maintenance of core items, so that it will remain an effective evaluation tool for online courses.