Engaging online students through peer-comparison progress dashboards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Purpose - Students studying exclusively online face the challenge of gauging their progress in relation to that of their disparate peers. This paper describes the creation of a student progress ‘dashboard’ in an online Masters programme, and the perceived effectiveness of the tool for engaging students.

Design/methodology/approach -Tableau® visualization software was used to create a dashboard displaying cohort comparison data comprising metrics relating to the continuous assessment components of the Masters programme. An anonymous questionnaire gauged students’ perceptions of the dashboard.

Findings - Feedback from students (n=137) suggests the dashboard improved their motivation, incentivising change in study behaviours, and sense of belonging to an online community of learners. It also acted as a conversation catalyst between staff and students, whereby students more readily engaged in dialogue with their personal tutor.

Practical implications - Distance learners are more likely to feel isolated and can become demotivated, which contributes to typically higher levels of withdrawal from online programmes versus those delivered on-campus. Tutors may consider communicating progress data as dashboards to enable online students to monitor their academic progress alongside that of their peers, as a motivational tool in an otherwise disparate group of learners, and to reduce feelings of isolation by reminding distance learners that they are part of a larger online community.

Originality/value - This paper shares student and tutor perspectives on the use of dashboards to increase online students’ motivation, and examines whether the benefits of a peer-comparison dashboard are reserved for high-achieving students.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJARHE-11-2018-0249
Pages (from-to)38-56
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • dashboard
  • online students
  • learning analytics visualizations


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