Your Course Will Never Improve Without Asking Students These 21 Questions
For many of our WP Courseware users, the motivation behind creating their first online course was simple:
To leverage their existing knowledge or experience to create an asset which generates passive income, allowing them to separate the relationship between time spent working and income earned.
Building an online course has become one of the most popular strategies for digital entrepreneurs to create a reliable, consistent income stream which rewards them for their hard work long after they’ve spent countless hours on their product.
However, as any of the leading bloggers who are considered authorities in digital income strategies (like our good friend Pat Flynn) will tell you, passive income streams can allow you to “front load” the work and generate revenue long into the future but the assets created are never truly “passive”.
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, when Ben and I released the initial version of WP Courseware several years ago as the first learning management system plugin for WordPress, it had been a process of creating a platform to deliver our own online courses. And the topics covered in our course content were constantly changing and evolving. Although we spent countless hours on our content prior to opening the course, not a week went by that we weren’t adding new information, removing outdated advice, or replacing course modules entirely.
Your course content needs to stay relevant. You should also constantly be refining the delivery of your content. If you’ve already launched your first course, hats off to you. It takes a lot of work to get that far.
But now it’s time to perfect the process to ensure that your asset keeps working for you for a long time to come!
This is why I have long recommended to nearly every WP Courseware user I’ve spoken with that as soon as their course launches, they implement a way to gather student feedback at the end of their courses. Every student has a different style of learning and using feedback to hone your approach to accommodate those learnings styles can improve the end result of your course(s).
WP Courseware makes this incredibly simple since, as most of you know, it allows for placement of a survey within any course unit. These surveys can include any questions you choose and the submissions can be collected and even exported for analysis.
These submissions can provide invaluable insights into how your students or customers feel about what you delivered and how you delivered it. I’ve had conversations with WP Courseware users who have received some pretty eye-opening feedback. I’ve talked with folks who didn’t even realize that they had left out entire topics which students felt should have been critical to include. I even had a conversation with a WP Courseware user who immediately hired a voiceover consultant to transcribe and then re-record all of the audio in his videos after receiving several feedback submissions from students who shared that they couldn’t stand the sound of his voice and found it to be a distraction. Ouch!
So What Types of Questions Should You Be Asking?
When you create an end-of-course feedback form, the questions you ask are really going to depend on a few variables:
*The unique niche/topic you are teaching
*The training delivery method or modality you are using
*The depth of the course (ie. beginner or expert)
*Any considerations or reservations you had when you released the course
There are obviously a nearly infinite number of questions you can ask in your feedback form, but these are four key areas to keep front of mind when crafting the questions you ask.
(Note: I stopped just short of using the word “insecurities” in that last bullet, but let’s face it…anyone who has launched an online course has at least one piece in their course where they feel they could have provided more detail, spent a little more time on editing, etc. If you’re worried about it, just ask.)
I’ll be the first to admit that I obsess over the process of analyzing data (leading to an extra semester at university so that I could squeeze in three more statistics courses), so if you approach things similarly there are a countless number of online courses on the psychology behind effective feedback forms. Feel free to knock yourself out with those, but just don’t overthink things.
You’re simply looking for ways to continually improve the overall quality of your course to ensure its long-term potential for you as an income-generating asset.
That being said, I’ll list a few of the key categories which feedback form questions fall into as a way to just get you thinking about what you want to ask your learners.
1. Identifying Questions
As we’re all well-aware, to receive candid and useful feedback it’s often best practice to allow survey participants to remain anonymous. With online courses, I would argue the opposite. You’ve (hopefully) developed a relationship with your course participants to some degree or at least established a certain level of mutual trust and respect.
Sometimes knowing which student has issues or concerns with a particular element of your course can help you recall things like an interaction you had with them where you dropped the ball or perhaps there was just a misunderstanding. Their identity can provide context to the feedback.
And if you do still prefer not to bias your analysis of the feedback by knowing names, you can ask for other identifiers which can at least give you some background to better understand how you can help specific groups of learners find the course more effective. This might include questions such as:
Nationality or native language
2. Student Expectations
These would be questions relating to how well the course content matched up with what your students envisioned they would gain prior to starting the course. These are likely some of the questions you’ll want to think most carefully about when crafting a course feedback form as they are a measure of the “perceived value” you’re delivering.
Questions relating to student expectations might include:
How well did this course do at explaining the topics you went into it wanting to know more about?
What personal motivations or reasons did you have for enrolling?
How well do you feel that the description of the course prior to enrolling represented the content within the course?
3. Content Delivery and Quality
Some of the questions in a course feedback form will require you to maintain a “thick skin” and remain objective. Some of the questions you’ll be asking are a reflection on the long hours of hard work you’ve put into your course, but they’re not a reflection of you.
Another critical area to include in a course feedback form is related to the content and the quality of the content. This could include the relevance of your lessons, quality or speed of your videos, the sound quality of recordings, or even the pace of the content.
Again, the options here are limitless, but might include:
How would you rate the overall quality of the course content?
How well do you think the individual lesson topics accurately represented what is required for a practical understanding and application of this topic in the real world?
How would you rate the quality of video and audio recordings?
How would you rate the amount of content presented in each lesson?
How would you rate the overall pace and structure of the course units?
4. Instructor Evaluation
Again, it requires quite a bit of objectivity when asking about how satisfied students were with the instructor for their course, especially considering the majority of our WP Courseware users create their own content.
But these are also very important questions to ask. In the example I mentioned above, that particular course creator would have had no idea that his paying students disliked the sound of his voice had he not asked. And his course has become more effective for learners by facing that fact and outsourcing the audio creation.
A few sample questions might include:
How qualified do you feel the instructor of the course was in this subject?
Did the instructor seem genuinely engaged and enthusiastic when discussing this subject?
Was the instructor able to communicate key topics clearly?
How well did the instructor do at addressing your specific questions related to the course content?
5. Student Learning Habits, Time Commitment, and Technology
Ok, so there are a few areas within a course feedback form where you can take the spotlight off of yourself and put it back on the student. Phew!
It’s also important to understand how students were actually digesting your content. And you might want to know whether they put in the time when considering their feedback or if they even had the time based on what they expected going into the course.
It’s also helpful to understand their learning habits and sometimes even what equipment they were using to access your online course, especially if a student has reported ongoing issues with accessing the content reliably.
How many hours per week were you prepared to spend on this course prior to beginning?
How much time per week did you spend on the course?
How well do you feel the necessary time commitment was communicated prior to beginning the course?
What times during your day did you most often spend on the course?
Were there other commitments you felt you needed to neglect to make time for the course?
What was the average amount of time for each session you spent on the course?
What type of computer or device did you most often access the course on?
Did you most often participate in the course on a public connection or at home?
How would you rate the playback of the media lessons in this course?
6. Open Suggestions
Most of the course feedback forms I have reviewed include a final section to allow the student to provide any feedback which may not have been covered by previous questions.
Again, this is really going to depend on the specifics of your course, but it’s an area where students can provide overall feedback and also specific recommendations for improving the course. So you’ll really want to think through how you prompt your students in this section.
Were there parts of the course which you feel could be improved? How?
Were there parts of the course you found very effective? What made them effective?
What other suggestions do you have for improving the effectiveness of this course?
A Word About Question Types
With most of the questions above, you could ask them as either:
Was the instructor able to communicate key topics clearly?
On a scale of 1-10, how clearly do you feel the instructor explained key course topics?
While you can choose to either include open-ended questions or ranking questions, in the interest of brevity it’s more common to use ranking questions with open-ended options at the end of the feedback form. Of course, you may have questions which require open-ended short form answers along the way (ie. Which topic did you learn the most about, etc.), but unless you’re requiring feedback you’ll obviously have a much higher response rate when the form takes less than five minutes to complete.
Again, the course feedback form is simply one tool you can use to continually improve your online courses. However, it can be a very effective and efficient way for you to ensure that you’re delivering relevant and high-quality content which prospective customers will continue paying for.
And again, remember to keep an objective approach to these submissions. The answers are in no way a reflection of you as a person, but simply a “product” you created. When students do provide feedback, they’re doing you a favor and taking an interest in your success.
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