MOOC enthusiasts should consider a Community College Research Center survey that found many college students want “in-person discussion and on-the-spot feedback,” writes Mandy Zatynski on The Quick and the Ed. There’s a generational divide in online learning separating young students from those 30 and older, she writes.
. . . my brother and I are galaxies apart in terms of technology, even though he’s only six years younger. He has never known a world without computers, while I still remember the awe of searching on the Internet for the first time. He reads news from a screen; I flip through the Sunday paper. In college, he learned on computers in campus labs; I bought textbooks and highlighted relevant passages. I can’t reach my brother by calling him, but if I send a text message, my phone will buzz with an immediate reply.
She sides with the community college students who want to go to brick-and-mortar classrooms, listen to a live human being and ask questions in real-time. But the rising generation of students may prefer the convenience of an online course.
In the survey, students said they were more likely to take “easy” courses online – meaning ones they could teach themselves – but preferred a face-to-face environment for more complicated courses, such as science and foreign language. This speaks to a growing need to move general education curricula online, much like the University System of Georgia does with eCore. Students there can take the first two years of their four-year degree online, before moving into classes on campus required for their major. If more universities moved in this direction, it could streamline articulation agreements and transfer processes for students, ensuring that they wouldn’t lose credit if they decided to switch institutions—as many college students do.
The future of higher education is more likely to blend online and face-to-face coursework than to go all MOOC, Zatynski predicts.
Learning online is especially difficult for lower-achieving students concludes a working paper by researchers at Columbia’s Community College Research Center. Younger students, males and blacks also did worse in online courses than in traditional face-to-face courses, researchers found after analyzing nearly 500,000 courses taken by more than 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State.
“Low-cost online courses could allow a more-diverse group of students to try college, but . . . also widen achievement gaps,” notes the Chronicle of Higher Education.
All students who take more online courses are less likely to attain a degree, the study found. But it’s worse for more vulnerable students.
“We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and underprepared students,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, one of the authors. “They’re falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.”
Online learning can still be a great tool, she said, particularly for older students who juggle studying and raising a family. For those students, as well as female and higher-performing students, the difference between online and physical classrooms was more marginal, according to the study.
“So for older students, you can sort of see the cost-benefit balance in favor of taking more courses online,” Ms. Jaggars said. “They might do a little worse, but over all it’s a pretty good trade-off for the easier access. But where a student doesn’t need online courses for their access, it’s unclear if that is a good trade-off.”
Writing courses attracted many poor learners, the study found. Online students had the grestest difficulties with social science courses, such as psychology and anthropology, and the applied professions, such as business and nursing.
Researchers suggested screening out students likely to do poorly, providing early warnings for struggling students, teaching online learning skills in some courses and/or working to improve the quality of online courses.
A new national center will study the link between postsecondary education and the workforce using a five-year grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences.
The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University will collaborate with scholars at the University of Michigan, Harvard, Stanford, the City University of New York and the University of North Carolina.
The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, or CAPSEE, will study:
(1) relatively short-term occupational degrees (occupational associate degrees and certificates or diplomas) that are designed to improve labor market outcomes; (2) non-credit workforce programs that now enroll millions of students and play an important (but under-investigated) workforce development role; (3) the burgeoning for-profit sector; and (4) the trajectory of earnings growth after college (or even occurring simultaneously with college).
The center’s 12 research projects will use data from five partner states, North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.
One project will try to determine the effectiveness of job retraining programs at Ohio community and technical colleges. Another will look at whether working undermines students’ success in college.
A Michigan research team will evaluate the state’s No Worker Left Behind (NWLB) program, which aims to draw laid-off or marginally employed workers back to school to obtain credentials in high-demand fields.
North Carolina’s One-Stop Career Centers located on community college campuses will be the focus of another study.
Non-academic supports can help community college students persist and eventually earn a credential, concludes a policy brief by Melinda Mechur Karp of the Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Supports can improve student outcomes in four ways: “creating social relationships, clarifying aspirations and enhancing commitment, developing college know-how, and addressing conflicting demands of work, family and college.”
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.
Two remedial math approaches — structured student collaboration and instruction focusing on problem representation — may improve learning and understanding, concludes a study by Michelle Hodara released by the Community College Research Center at Teachers’ College, Columbia University. Strategies focusing on metacognition, application, understanding student thinking and computer-based learning were less effective.
Community college placement tests do not improve student outcomes, concludes a study by Katherine Hughes and Judith Scott-Clayton.
Non-academic supports for students succeed by “creating social relationships, clarifying aspirations and commitment, developing college know-how, and addressing conflicting demands of work, family, and college,” concludes a study by Melinda Mechur Karp.
To increase graduation rates, community colleges should streamline student decision-making processes, revise online education models to facilitate course completion and favor college-wide reform over small-scale interventions. These are findings from three working papers released this week by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. This is only the first installment of the Assessment of Evidence Series.
Community colleges need to engage in broad institutional reform, said CCRC director Thomas Bailey.
“Successful stand-alone programs in isolation will not do enough to improve outcomes for large numbers of students. Strategies must work in concert across the institution, and faculty need to be at the center of sustained, college-wide efforts to improve student success.”
Redesigning community colleges for completion: Lessons from research on high-performance organizations by Davis Jenkins outlines steps community colleges can take to improve student learning and progression.
In The shapeless river: Does a lack of structure inhibit students’ progress at community colleges?, Judith Scott-Clayton highlights several promising programs that help students navigate college options and make good choices.
Online learning: Does it help low-income and underprepared students? concludes that online learning is flexible and convenient, but completion rates are low for community college students. Shanna Jaggars suggests ways to improve online learning access and success rates.
Combining basic skills instruction with job training improves most educational outcomes, concludes a study by the Community College Research Center.
Developed in Washington state, Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, known as I-BEST, teams a basic skills instructor with an occupational instructor. Students can earn college credits for the job training coursework.
. . . students who attended colleges with I-BEST after the program was implemented were 7.5 percentage points more likely to earn a certificate within three years and almost 10 percentage points more likely to earn some college credits, relative to students who were not exposed to I-BEST.
However, I-BEST did not earn more money after completing training or work more hours, perhaps because they entered the labor market just as the recession hit.
Accelerated Learning Program students who place into the highest level of remedial writing are allowed to enroll directly in English 101, a college-level course, if they also take a companion ALP course, which is limited to eight students and taught by the same instructor.
In the sample used in this study, 82% of ALP students passed ENGL 101 within one year, compared with 69% of non-ALP ENGL 052 students. More than a third (34%) of ALP students passed ENGL 102, compared with only 12% of the non-ALP ENGL 052 students.
Compared to traditional remediation, ALP was significantly more cost-effective in helping students pass English requirements for an associate degree. Although selection bias may have affected the results, CCBC is expanding the program. Next year, a majority of students referred to the highest level developmental English will be enrolled in ALP and English 101.
Less than half of students complete the remedial sequence to which they’re referred, another CCRC study found. Failure to enroll is a more significant factor than failure to pass courses.
Online education is expanding rapidly, but there’s no consensus on how well it works, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Online advocates cite an Education Department meta-analysis (pdf) that concludes: “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” That’s not necessarily so, respond researchers at the Community College Research Center, who found all-online classes no better than traditional classes for college students.
The Education Department’s meta-analysis used 51 published studies, but only 28 compared face-to-face courses with fully online courses, CCRC points out. The seven studies of fully online semester-length college courses showed “no strong advantage or disadvantage in terms of learning outcomes.”
What is more, these studies consider courses that were taken by relatively well-prepared university students, so their results may not generalize to traditionally underserved populations. . . . without additional supports, online learning may even undercut progression among low-income and academically underprepared students.
Online classes are being promoted for working adults and parents, who have trouble attending campus classes, said CCRC researcher Shanna Smith Jaggars. But low-income students may not have high-speed Internet at home.
Other studies have also found that academically underprepared students are more likely to withdraw from an online course than a face-to-face course, and that overall withdrawal rates for online courses are two to three times higher than for face-to-face courses.
A CCRC study of online learning at community colleges, due later this summer, will show much higher withdrawal rates than in the Education Department study, Jaggars said.
California should develop an all-online community college, argue James Fay, academic vice president at Cerro Coso College and economist Jane Sjogren in the Sacramento Bee. Golden State Online, as they call it, would model itself on the British Open University and Rio Salado Community College in Arizona, which employ a small core of full-time faculty to develop high-quality courses.
A director of assessment would ensure that students meet nationally benchmarked standards as they complete rigorous course and program requirements. For example, students in both academic and career courses could be assessed on their mastery of Work Keys, a series of tests used nationally to measure academic and job skills as well as work readiness.
. . . Golden State Online would offer most of its courses in flex-time formats of four to eight weeks, on an as-needed basis, and would not be bound by traditional semester or quarter academic schedules. Modular courses would let students skip or test out of material that they had already mastered, thus accelerating progress toward their career goals.
“Golden State Online would be a “laboratory of experimentation on what works and what doesn’t in the relatively new field of online learning,” Fay and Sjogren argue.