POLICY BRIEFS

WHICH STUDENTS ARE AT HIGHEST RISK ONLINE? Online course outcomes and subsequent college attrition

Key Takeaways:

  • Students with children and native-born students were both significantly less likely to successfully complete an online course than would be expected based on face-to-face performance.
  • Students who enrolled in online courses were less likely to persist in college, but online course outcomes had no direct effect on college persistence. Thus, students didn't drop out of college because of poorer outcomes in the online environment.
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IS IT RISKIER TO TAKE A COURSE ONLINE? Differences in successful course completion online versus face-to-face, after controlling for student self-selection

Key Takeaways:

  • After controlling for the specific course taken and student characteristics, including environmental factors (e.g. work and family responsibilities) and non-cognitive factors (e.g. motivation, grit), there was no significant difference in successful course completion rates online versus face-to-face.
  • Institutions should be cautious in restricting access to online courses through restrictive enrollment or development policies, because this is likely to reduce access to college for non-traditional students (e.g. those with work or family responsibilities) without improving course or college outcomes.
  • On the other hand, students who do not currently elect to take online courses should not be forced to enroll online, as the results of this study can only be generalized to those students who currently choose to take courses online.
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