According to Freeman, 165 instructors, who teach both online and face-to-face, from three diverse universities across the country, were surveyed. These instructors have been teaching at the university level for an average of 14 years, and developed their first online course in 2001. Each respondent has developed an average of 2.13 distinct online courses and has taught an average of 2 distinct online courses.

The survey defined “online courses” as those with greater than 80 percent course content delivered through a LMS. Approximately 75 percent of the respondents indicate that a face-to-face version of their online course exists and pre-dates the online version. None of the respondents indicate that their online course pre-dates a face-to-face version.

[More on the survey’s methodology can be found in the report.]

Course development time and planning: In general, more faculty begin online course development earlier, and fewer faculty wait as long to start online course development. Also, a majority of the course content is developed by the instructor. 

The survey found that [of the respondents]:

  • For face-to-face courses, only 7 percent begin course development more than 16 weeks (approximately the beginning of the preceding academic semester) prior to the start of the course. This compares to 12 percent beginning their online course development more than 16 weeks prior.
  • Over 70 percent wait to within 8 weeks of the start of the course to begin development of their face-to-face course, whereas this number is only 40 percent for online courses.
  • 46 percent complete their online course development in 8 weeks or less, and a full 87 percent complete their online course development in 16 weeks or less. 12 percent take longer than 20 weeks.
  • In terms of actual hours, 29 percent need over 100 hours (median of 70 hours) to develop their online course.
  • 53 percent indicate that they develop over 90 percent of the course content themselves. Over 75 percent of the respondents develop at least half of the course content themselves. Textbook publishers and instructional designers also provide content, but not to the same extent, though 81 percent of the courses utilize a textbook.
  • When asked about the entire course (content, assessments, structure, design, etc.), 59 percent indicate that they develop 91-100 percent of the entire course with only 8 percent indicating they develop less than 10 percent of the entire course.

Course enrollment: There is not only a tendency towards smaller enrollment in online courses, but also an apparent demarcation within online courses at around 30 students.

The survey found that [of the respondents]:

  • 30 percent of the online courses enroll between 21 and 25 students with 76 percent of the courses enrolling between 6 and 30 students.
  • For face-to-face courses, 21 percent of the courses enroll between 21 and 25 students with only 61 percent of the courses enrolling between 6 and 30 students.
  • While both course types also show high numbers of courses with enrollments of 46+ (15 percent and 14 percent for online and face-to-face, respectively), 21 percent of face-to-face courses enroll between 31 and 45 students where this accounts for only 7 percent of the online courses.

Course development and delivery perceptions: The time required to develop and deliver online courses decreases significantly by the third course.

The survey found that [of the respondents]:

  • 81 percent agree that it is more time consuming to develop an online course than a face-to-face course.
  • However, subsequent online course developments are less time consuming that prior online course development, said the majority. This is also true for perceptions of teaching an online course for the first time compared to subsequent courses [82 percent agree with this statement].
  • By the 3rd time teaching an online course, there seems to be no difference in time when compared to the 3rd time teaching a face-to-face course [41 percent agree with this statement].

(Next page: Pre-semester setup, instructor interaction, and grading & assessment)


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