Online students are less likely to succeed than students in traditional classes at Washington state community and technical colleges, according to a five-year study released by the Community College Research Center at Teachers’ College, Columbia University. Results were similar to those found in a parallel CCRC study in Virginia.
Online students were employed for more hours and and had demographic characteristics associated with stronger academic preparation, compared to students in hybrid and traditional classes. However, after controlling for student characteristics, online students were more likely to withdraw or fail.
In addition, students who took online coursework in early terms were slightly but significantly less likely to return to school in subsequent terms, and students who took a higher proportion of credits online were slightly but significantly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year institution.
Students who took hybrid courses were similar demographically to students in face-to-face courses and were equally likely to complete their courses.
“Given the importance of online learning in terms of student convenience and institutional flexibility, current system supports for online learning should be bolstered and strengthened in order to improve completion rates among online learners,” the report recommends.