Hostos Online Learning Assessment HOLA: Four Years of Online Learning Scholarship

Jacqueline M. DiSanto, Associate Professor
Early Childhood Education Unit Coordinator
Education Department

Kate Wolfe, Associate Professor
Behavioral Sciences Unit
Behavioral and Social Sciences Department


Did you know that:

  • 60% of the students who responded to a survey indicated that online courses were similar in difficulty to face-to-face courses and 60% said it was the same amount of work?
  • almost 90% of respondents have adequate access to technology to meet the demands of an online course?
  • 32% strongly agreed and 47% agreed that they were actively engaged with their professor and their online course?
  • more than 70% of students knew they were signing up for a partially or fully online course when they registered?
  • almost 50% percent of students registered for an online course were taking one for the very first time?

These statements are the result of the initial survey administered by HOLA back in 2015.  The Hostos Online Learning Assessment (HOLA) Task Force was formed to investigate the perceptions students hold toward learning online at Hostos and is comprised of members of the Office of Educational Technology (EdTech) and faculty from several different academic departments.  Professors Kristopher Burrell (chair), Jacqueline DiSanto, Sandy Figueroa, Sarah Hoiland, Kate Lyons, Norberto Michel H. Valdez-Portela, and Kate Wolfe, with Ed Tech director Carlos Guevara and staff members Iber Poma and Wilfredo Rodriguez currently serve on HOLA.  Their focus on what students think about their online experiences is critical when considering best practices for providing online instruction and whether or not they innovations might be effective at Hostos.


As our students have myriad combinations of responsibilities that include classes, jobs, family, and service within the community, it is rational that more flexibly scheduled classes such as those offered completely or partially online might be useful to them. HOLA sought to ask questions that would provide a platform for future discussions on course design, course accessibility, and course engagement.  It was important to discover why students were registering for an online course, and whether students were using online learning as a one-time choice.


HOLA is “committed to advancing the offerings and standards for online courses through continued research into students’ perceptions so as to best meet the need of the diverse student body at Hostos Community College” (Wolfe, DiSanto, Poma, & Rodriguez, 2018).  Because of this mission, their findings would also be useful to those involved in the creation of new asynchronous or hybrid courses.  All new online sections must adhere to the course description included in the college bulletin, address the same learning outcomes as the face-to-face sections, and maintain a similar level of rigor in content and activity.


The investigations conducted by HOLA can also impact advisement across several different offices on campus who work directly with students as they select the next semester’s courses.  This became apparent after almost 30% of responding students indicated that they enrolled in a course without being aware it was an online section.  Expanding the information provided to students during advisement to include how to recognize or locate an online section might not change the mind of a student determined to register for a particular section, but it would help them be prepared for the uniqueness of an online learning-environment.  HOLA also strongly supports having advisors, instructors, and EdTech staff inform students about the online-learning readiness course “Are You Ready?”  This was specifically designed to help students self-determined if they are prepared to take a course that meets exists at least partially online.


Comprehensive research on online learning is relatively new, particularly with diverse populations at community colleges.  HOLA disseminated their work in two articles published in the Hispanic Educational Technology Services Online Journal.   The first article, published in April 2016, shared the results of their initial survey.  Published after the analysis of data from the second administration of the survey, the follow-up article provided a discussion on student perceptions identified from both cohorts.  The findings from HOLA’s investigations both compare and contrast with existing literature: Jaggars found that her students perceived online courses to be less difficult (2014), yet the majority of students at Hostos deemed the level of difficulty in online courses to be equal to that of face-to-face courses. Taking a course online is effective in terms of both financial and time costs (Hsu, Ching, Mathews, & Carr-Chellman 2009).  Twenty-two percent of students reported in the Hostos survey that they enrolled in an online section because family and/or work commitments prevented them from participating in a face-to-face course.


As we continue to work toward meeting the needs of our diverse student body, and as new online sections are created or adapted, we must work “to isolate the key elements and mechanisms of effective non-instructional supports, and to identify the instructional behaviors and activities that encourage student engagement, motivation, retention, and learning” in an online-learning environment (Jaggars, 2011).  To this end, HOLA will continue to administer its student-perception survey and share its findings within the broader online-learning community.  HOLA will implement a survey in the near future to identify the perceptions toward online learning of faculty who teach asynchronous and/or hybrid courses. Please note:  The latest survey is currently being administered through May 14.  If you teach an asynchronous or hybrid section, please ask your students to participate in the survey by sharing this link with them: You can distribute the link via Blackboard; we suggest using the Announcement function and/or sending an email.  The distribution method is up to you.  Please let your students in your hybrid and asynchronous courses know that the survey is open from April 17, 2019 through May 15, 2019.  This research study has been approved by the CUNY HRPP.


Hsu, Y-C., Ching, Y-H., Mathews, J. P., & Carr-Chellman, A. (2009). Undergraduate students’ self-regulated learning experience in web-based learning environments. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(2), 109-121.

Jaggars, S. (2014). Choosing between online and face-to-face courses: Community college student voices. American Journal of Distance Education, 28(1), 28-28. doi:10.1080/08923647.2014.867697

Jaggars, S. (2011). Online learning: Does it help low-income and underprepared students?   (Community College Research Center Working Paper No. 26). New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Wolfe, K., DiSanto, J. M., Poma, I., & Rodriguez, W. (2018, Spring). Hostos Online Learning Assessment (HOLA) follow-up: Student perceptions in two cohorts. Hispanic Educational Technology Services, 8.


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