I am not a course instructor, but I am a teaching assistant for a large course in STEM in the large US school. I have been soliciting advice from students to improve the course and tutorial for the past some eight months.
However, during this time, I have been dealing with a series of taking students suggestions (or witnessing the instructor taking students suggestions) that "steer" the course, but then regretting it because it made things worse.
I host tutorials using PowerPoint slides. Students requested en masse that I should post my tutorial slides ahead of time. I followed their suggestion and the tutorial attendance plummeted to around 10 students, down from 80ish and the tutorial interaction disappeared altogether. Now I am basically talking to an empty room.
Students requested that the course problems should be more representative of the course, i.e., they should look like exam questions. The instructor and I decided to put test questions as assignments. Now the students complain that it is too hard and too lengthy. We augmented the questions and made them easier, now the student demand to see the actual exams and solution because now the questions are not the original ones.
This happened in the last semester. Two very vocal students went on week long rants about how hard the course was and how because of COVID-19 and all the stress we need to lower our exam difficulty. We took their advice and made the exams simpler. The course average wind up to be ~95% and those two vocal students were actually the best performing students all along. Even a snail could pass this advanced, highly technical undergraduate level course. The past year average were around 75%.
I have reached the perhaps pessimistic conclusion that
some students don't know what they want
some students just love to complain very loudly, even in anger, knowing that we have to remain placid, professional no matter how bad things get
students don't care about learning, only care about high score on exams. Some students would love it if the entire course was just one guy explaining the solution to all the previous year's exams.
How do we deal with following student suggestions in the online setting? I noticed that due to various online platforms and discussion board we provide them, in addition to semi-anonymity, some students are much more vocal, persistent. The instructors I've worked with are also more likely to give in to this small minority, lower the course standard, and basically getting steered by students into making the course worse.
Obviously I am a TA and my power is limited. But this might be useful for when I become a instructor myself or for other course instructors.