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What questions to ask learners when you need feedback on your online course

A version of this post was originally published on May 17, 2020, in eLearning Industry.

Feedback can help you improve multiple aspects of your online course, whether we’re talking about your platform, content, or even marketing. Asking for genuine feedback and giving genuine feedback can be nerve-racking for most. Even if you are a more seasoned instructor, it’s a vulnerable position to be in. On the bright side, there’s nothing more valuable than getting constructive criticism from the people who take your online courses.

The biggest enemies of good feedback are generalities and niceties. The first is the tendency to say things that are non-specific such as “great course” or “I didn’t like it” without elaborating further. The second is the fact that people will often say things that they think you want to hear.

What questions to ask learners when you need feedback on your online course

The golden rule is that, in order to get effective feedback, you need to ask the right questions.

Now, for the sake of saving time, you might opt for creating a survey. However, I’d advise you to use the interview method if you can. That means having a one-on-one talk with at least five learners who have preferably completed your course.

No matter which method you choose, take the following questions as examples to adapt to your situation:

  • Questions about the course in general

    These questions help you find out what are the overall impressions of a learner, from start to finish. Although they seem more general, think of it as a warm-up. For example, ask them to name the top three adjectives that come to mind when they think of the course. This type of information helps instructors refine their marketing message and attract new learners as a result.

    • Why did you choose this course (2-3 top reasons)?
    • What is one thing that you enjoyed the most?
    • What did you wish to see in the course (and it wasn’t there)?
    • If you could change one specific thing, what would that be?
    • What made you stick to the end?
    • To whom would you recommend this course?
  • Questions about the course content

    The biggest area of improvement is your course content. Your learners offer a unique insight so this should be your main focus, especially if you have limited time or want to build a shorter survey. Just make sure that you cover all aspects related to the course, such as structure, logical flow, extra materials, and of course, the quality of your main content.

    • How would you rate the quality of visuals (images, videos)?
    • How easy or difficult was it to understand the concepts?
    • Which topics you wish were more in-depth?
    • Did you google/research some topics while taking the course? Why?
    • How would you rate the course in terms of structure (logical, easy to follow, confusing)?
    • How would you describe quizzes in terms of question variety and covered topics?
    • Did you skip any parts? Why?
  • Questions about learning outcomes

    Learning outcomes is how we measure the success of a course. And while you might be able to assess them through online quizzes or other types of assessments, it’s great to know what learners think about the final result. If an online course’s purpose is to lead the learner from point A to point B, you need to know if it has achieved that, to what degree, and assess how the course can be improved to help others in the future.

    • Have you applied anything that you have learned? Why or why not?
    • How confident are you in applying what you have learned?
    • What was the most useful thing that you have learned?
    • Did the course make you think differently about a certain topic?
    • Name one topic that you didn’t know anything about.
  • Questions about their interaction with the course

    These questions aren’t essential, but it can give you a better understanding of how learners interact with your course and with other users. This can help you make their overall experience better or assess how effective your efforts were to make it more enjoyable. It’s also a way to figure out if there were any barriers to learning, such as busy schedules or difficulties in accessing the course on a mobile device.

    • Did you connect with other learners (sharing resources, ideas)? Why or why not?
    • What do you think about the gamification elements (badges, points, leaderboards)?
    • How did the course fit in your weekly schedule?
    • How would you rate the experience on mobile devices?
    • Were there any moments when you felt frustrated? Why?

Final tips

If you’re doing an interview, you can use all of these questions, and more. If you’re creating a survey for your online course, use 5-6 questions that you think are relevant based on what you need to improve the most.

Just remember that feedback is a gift and also that is takes a bit of work. However, at the end of the day, it’s your job to ask relevant questions so learners can help you in return.