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Online Student Expectations: A Multifaceted, Student-centred Understanding of Online Education


University students are more likely to feel satisfied and persist with their studies if their experiences have met their expectations, and vice versa (Wu, Tsai, Chen, & Wu, 2006). Understanding what online students expect, therefore, is important to guide how universities might satisfy and retain these students. Research into online student expectations to date, however, has been limited to pre-defined expectations of the academic experience, and extrapolations from traditional higher education. To gain a deeper understanding of what online students expect, the author conducted in-depth interviews with 43 commencing online students. Thematic analysis revealed online students’ expectations were described by six key themes: Motivation, Ability, Circumstances, Interaction, Curriculum, and Environment. The findings offer an empirical, student-centred, and multifaceted understanding of online student expectations. Opportunities are illuminated to clarify inaccurate expectations, and to design online education to better meet student needs, facilitating enhanced online student satisfaction and retention.

Published: 2020-10-16
Pages:91 to 98
How to Cite
Henry, M. (2020). Online Student Expectations: A Multifaceted, Student-centred Understanding of Online Education. Student Success, 11(2), 91-98.

Author Biography

Curtin University
Australia Australia

Dr Mel Henry is an experienced higher education equity practitioner and researcher with in-depth knowledge of the low SES and online student experience. She holds a PhD in educational psychology, specialising in online student expectations, experiences and outcomes; and has led Curtin University’s Student Equity Strategy since 2012. Mel currently oversees Curtin University’s allocation of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) funding and associated initiatives. She has also led the development, implementation and evaluation of institution-wide retention, diversity and inclusion strategies and projects, including the widely acclaimed Curtin AHEAD widening participation program as well as diversity and inclusion staff development programs.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795