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Student Expectations

November 24, 2010

Question 55 on the PSOL is one of three “Summary” questions that are placed near the end of the survey. Question 55 is a difficult question to make sense out of. It reads as follows: “So far, how has your college experience met your expectations?”

An earlier version of the survey appears to have included a slightly different question: “So far, how has the online experience met your expectations?” I actually prefer this older version of the question. Since we have students take this survey even if they are primarily on-ground students, their “college experience” can be quite different from their “online experience.”

Here are the possible responses to this question:

  1. Much worse than I expected
  2. Quite a bit worse than I expected
  3. Worse than I expected
  4. About what I expected
  5. Better than I expected
  6. Quite a bit better than I expected
  7. Much better than I expected

On the satisfaction and importance scales, a score of “4” equals a neutral rating. Here a score of 4 equals “about what I expected.” Those are not the same things, or at least we have no way of knowing whether they might be about the same or wildly different.

The problem with this measure is that we have no idea what the student expectations WERE coming into the online learning experience. Meeting their expectations might be a great thing if they had high expectation, but clearly it could be a bad thing if they very low expectations. What if their expectations were that “online learning is going to be stink out loud,” would we be happy with a score of 4 for meeting those expectations? I think it is dangerous (and extremely presumptuous) to think that students came into online learning with high expectations. Is there any data to support this?

PSOL expectations

Could the differences in these columns shown above be caused primarily due to different expectations? I think that’s entirely possible. Even still, every group reports a better experience (above 4.0) than they expected, whatever those expectations might be.

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