Online and Incomplete

Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, Aug 09, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

. . . "a new study urges caution to those who believe that online education is a panacea for educating more community college students. The study finds that students who enrolled in online courses -- controlling for various factors that tend to predict success -- were more likely to fail or drop out of the courses than were those who took the same courses in person. Notably, there was not a gap in completion between those enrolled in hybrid and in-person courses. Further, the students who took online courses early in their community college careers were slightly but statistically significantly less likely than were other students to come back for subsequent terms. And students who took higher shares of coursework online than did their peers were slightly but statistically significantly less likely either to finish a degree or certificate or to transfer to a four-year institution."

"The study was by Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. Their analysis is based on a large cohort -- the 51,000 students who entered community and technical colleges in Washington State in 2004. And the study is similar to one on students in Virginia, adding to the researchers' belief that the trends are real and potentially troublesome in that increasing numbers of community college students are enrolling online."

"The study notes that enrollments of community college students in online courses have grown at a rapid pace, from just over 700,000 in 1997-98 to 5 million in 2006-7, with every indication that the numbers have continued to soar. And the authors note that there are good reasons for community colleges to embrace online education, especially "to accommodate the need for flexibility among their student population, many of whom hold part- or full-time jobs."

"In keeping with that theme, the authors don't suggest any abandonment of online education. Rather, they urge community colleges in Washington State and elsewhere to consider steps that would improve the chances of success of some online students (while encouraging others to try face-to-face instruction). Among the recommendations:" . . .

Also see "Community-College Students Perform Worse Online Than Face to Face," by Ryan Brown, July 18, 2011, Chronicle of Higher Education

See "Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges (CCRC Working Paper No. 31)"
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