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The Two Big Problems With Online College Courses 215

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that while online college classes are already common, on the whole, the record is not encouraging because there are two big problems with online teaching. First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed. Research has shown that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses. 'Colleges need to improve online courses before they deploy them widely,' says the Times. 'Moreover, schools with high numbers of students needing remedial education should consider requiring at least some students to demonstrate success in traditional classes before allowing them to take online courses.' Interestingly, research found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming. 'The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education. But, so far, the evidence shows that poorly designed courses can seriously shortchange the most vulnerable students.'"
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The Two Big Problems With Online College Courses

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  • Failure rates (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @07:50PM (#42960741)

    I teach history at a community college, both online and face to face, and I can attest to the failure rates for online classes. They're high. My failure rate for face to face classes is probably about 30% (I teach in a very low-income, low-literacy area, with most students speaking English as a second language) while it's around 50% for online classes. Many of those students do only maybe 30% of the assignments. Face to face students who aren't into it just stop coming, but online students keep doing a few things, but they won't just drop the class. It's really crazy. I have a quiz every week, and they have to contribute to online discussions every week, and there are a number of students who only do one or the other. I have a student who has been in my class for four semesters in a row. He's never done anything more than take a few quizzes, yet he keeps signing up for the class. If he was on financial aid it is likely pulled by now, yet he keeps taking the class. The article is definitely right, though, in that online is good for driven students. For others, I think it's a disaster.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.