What Students Want from Their Online Learning Experience?
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What Students Want from Their Online Learning Experience?

A recent paper by Child, Frank, Law and Sarakatsannis (McKinsey June, 2023) provided an all-important focus on effective online learning and exploring the issue of ‘What do higher education students want from online learning?

The survey-based paper (across 17 countries – including Australia) provided a most useful overview of the dimensions of good online learning best captured in the following table:

8 key dimensions and 24 attributes that shape online learning experience for higher ed students

Extract from Child, Frank, Law and Sarakatsannis (2023) ‘what do higher education students want from online learning?

To contextualise this for the UBSS community:

Focus UBSS context
Strong community Feedback suggests a satisfied learning community
Timely support SFUs indicate high levels of support when needed
Adaptive learning Sydney lecture studios are exemplars
Practical learning Every effort is made to ‘contexualise’ learning
Clear road map Structured programs and assessment are working
Easy digital experience The LMS works effectively
Balanced learning formats Formats are working well – diversity evident
Captivating delivery SFU feedback suggests delivery is well received

65% of respondents internationally wanted elements of the virtual world (online delivery) to remain a part of their ongoing education programs. The percentage is considerably higher at UBSS (based on the most recent survey in Trimester 2, 2023) with students wanting to remain online across the school.

Cohort % prefer studying remotely
Sydney PG students 91%
Melbourne PG students 100%
Adelaide PG students 100%
Average 97%


Cohort % prefer studying remotely
Sydney UG students 97%
Melbourne UG students 100%
Average 98.5%


The qualitative feedback suggests the big issues (see word cloud) are Safety, Convenience, Ease, Efficiency and concern about ongoing COVID/FLU.

Word cloud highlighting convenience, easy, efficient, flu, covid

Student satisfaction levels – particularly in the academic domain – are heavily influenced by both the quality of teaching and the learning support provided. UBSS does this very well consistently scoring 4.3 out of 5 in ongoing surveys. The most recent survey (Trimester 1, 2023) would suggest students feel supported in the key areas:

Trimester 1, 2023
1 2 3 4 5
strongly disagree disagree neutral agree strongly agree


# Survey questions BBus BAcc MBA Total
Q1 The subject provided useful knowledge and skills 4.27 4.46 4.38 4.37
Q2 The learning outcomes were achievable 4.27 4.46 4.38 4.37
Q3 The subject workload was manageable 4.15 4.29 4.29 4.24
Q4 The subject helped to develop relevant professional skills 4.13 4.41 4.38 4.31
Q5 The lecturer was well prepared for each class 4.39 4.41 4.44 4.41
Q6 The lecturer provided useful feedback 4.17 4.22 4.30 4.23
Q7 The lecturer had a good knowledge of the subject matter 4.40 4.49 4.55 4.48
Q8 The lecturer used e-learning resources 4.29 4.40 4.44 4.38
Q9 The lecturer was available to discuss learning problems outside of class time 4.19 4.24 4.00 4.14
Q10 The assessment requirements were clearly explained 4.06 4.21 4.34 4.20
Q11 Overall the teaching in the subject was of a high quality 4.14 4.33 4.34 4.27
Average 4.22 4.36 4.35 4.31

This set of outcomes is consistent with longitudinal data collected since 2016. The variation between online delivery mode and F2F delivery mode is insignificant – suggesting teaching and learning support staff at UBSS are performing admirably – despite the modes.

As we prepare for a hybrid return to class from July 2023 – given that it is safe and practical to do so – there is a high degree of likelihood that UBSS will continue to perform well in the mixed mode (hybrid).

For more on the hybrid notion see: A return to campus for students and staff – part of the new reality

To read the McKinsey paper in full see: What do higher education students want from online learning?

Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer at Group Colleges Australia.

Professor Ashok Chanda is the Executive Dean at UBSS.

Ashok and Greg have recently published – The Strategies for ‘Going Online’ – Intertype ISBN 978 0 6458106 1 5 365 pages

Cover of book: The Strategies for going online