Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Fadde, Peter


Students’ satisfaction is a very important indicator of the caliber of online courses, a learning modality which has escalated in the last decade. Satisfaction, however, is a complex construct and most related studies assume that satisfaction is the opposite of dissatisfaction. An alternative view from the area of organizational psychology was offered by Herzberg, Mausner and Snyderman (1959) who theorized that the factors that lead to workers’ satisfaction are different from those that lead to their dissatisfaction. Therefore, eliminating the dissatisfiers may result in no dissatisfaction but not necessarily lead to satisfaction. This study used Herzberg et al. (1959) theory as a lens to investigate students’ satisfying and dissatisfying experiences in online courses. A total of 624 students were surveyed at a large system-wide Midwestern university regarding their satisfying and dissatisfy experiences in online courses. Data analyses included content analysis, descriptive statistics, and independent samples t-tests. Although some of the online course experiences that students described were associated with both satisfying and dissatisfying categories, some experiences were reported more often as satisfying than as dissatisfying. More specifically, the analyses revealed that recognition, achievement, course flexibility/convenience, asynchronous communication, and synchronous communication may be deemed as satisfiers (motivators), because they were more likely to increase online students’ satisfaction than to decrease their satisfaction. In contrast, online modality, assessment, instructor facilitation skills, instructor directions/expectations, and course technology were deemed as dissatisfiers (hygiene factors), because they were associated with students’ dissatisfying experiences more frequently than they were with satisfying experiences. Based on the study results, the recommendations included addressing not only the hygiene factors but also the motivators. The rationale is that if online course practitioners address only the hygiene factors (such as course technology), this approach could lead students to having only a neutral position in the course, that is, they would be neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Therefore, online course practitioners should also implement strategies (motivators) associated with experiences that students reported more often as satisfiers (such as recognition for their work and opportunities for achievement in the course).




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