As an online and offline teaching mode, small private online courses (SPOC) are widely used in higher education. There is an urgent need in education today to identify the factors that affect the effectiveness of teaching SPOC and to develop strategies to improve the effectiveness of teaching. To enhance the teaching effectiveness of SPOC, this study compares and analyses the factors affecting the teaching effectiveness of SPOC from three perspectives, namely, students’ learning abilities, teachers’ teaching strategies and the classroom learning atmosphere. Following that, a structural equation model (SEM) is used to construct an analysis paradigm of relevant variables and a SEM affecting the effectiveness of SPOC, and six hypotheses were formulated. A survey of the SPOC ‘Aviation Broadcasting’ conducted by the students who enrolled in the School of Zhengzhou Aviation Industry Management College in China served as an example to verify the hypotheses proposed in this paper and provide suggestions for improving the teaching effectiveness of the SPOC through questionnaire research, SPSS analysis and AMOS calculation. Researchers have found that the most influential factor for the teaching effect of SPOC is learning ability of students, followed by teaching design of teachers and classroom learning atmosphere. Based on the research findings, the teaching effect of SPOC can be improved theoretically and practically. The findings of the study provide a reference for decision-making to improve the curriculum effectiveness formulation of SPOC in higher education.