Establishing Criteria for an Optimal Online Learning Environment for Iranian University Students: A Qualitative Research Synthesis

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Prof. of TEFL, Department of Language Studies. The Institute for Research and Development in the Humanities (SAMT), Tehran, Iran.

2 Assistant Prof. of TEFL, Department of Behavioral Sciences, The Institute for Research and Development in the Humanities (SAMT), Tehran, Iran.



The adoption of E-learning in academic environments, particularly in Iran, has accelerated over the past decades. However, the lack of established guidelines for instructional design seems to have hindered the creation of effective online educational environments. Therefore, this study aimed to conduct a comprehensive qualitative research synthesis (QRS) to identify the criteria for an optimal online learning environment for Iranian university students. The study followed Major and Savin-Baden's three-phase QRS model and included 12 studies with 252 participants and 42 researchers. The synthesis integrated findings from multiple studies to gain insights into experts’ opinions and students’ perceptions, preferences, and experiences within online learning environments. The research identified four overarching themes: targeted learning, effective teaching management, socio-affective engagement, and learner empowerment. Targeted learning focuses on problem-oriented and need-oriented teaching; effective teaching management emphasizes balanced content and time management, clear objectives, and diverse presentation and evaluation methods; socio-affective engagement involves interactive feedback, social presence, and emotional communication; learner empowerment stresses autonomy, agency and active learning, including experiential and discovery learning. Applying these findings seems to offer a genuine contribution, leading to the development of culturally relevant and high-quality E-learning experiences and addressing the challenges posed by the nascent E-learning system in Iran.


Main Subjects

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