This working paper investigates academic outcomes in online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses over five years among students who enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges in the fall of 2004.
Students who were employed for more hours and students who had demographic characteristics associated with stronger academic preparation were more likely to enroll in online courses. Students enrolled in hybrid courses were quite similar to those who enrolled in face-to-face courses.
After controlling for student characteristics, results indicated that students were more likely to fail or withdraw from online courses than from face-to-face courses. Students who took online coursework in early terms were also 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. In contrast, students in hybrid courses had similar to those in face-to-face courses.
The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening online supports in order to improve completion rates.