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Online Education

Online Education

According to the Digest of Education Statistics, 5.2 million undergraduates (or 31 percent) took at least one distance education course in fall 2016. In fall 2017, two thirds of community college students were not enrolled in any distance education courses, 20 percent were enrolled in some, and 13 percent were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses.

A 2016 survey on online learning by the Babson Survey Research Group found that nearly 6.4 million college students (32 percent) took at least one online course in fall 2016—a 5.6 percent increase from fall 2015.

A CCRC study of Washington State community and technical college students found that completion rates in online courses were 5.5 percentage points lower than those in face-to-face courses. Because online courses were more popular among better prepared students, the researchers also compared course completion rates among only those students who had ever enrolled in an online course. Among those students, the completion rate for all online courses was 8.2 percentage points lower than the completion rate for face-to-face courses; completion rates for online English and math courses were lower by 12.8 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively. Students who took higher proportions of online courses were slightly less likely to attain a degree or transfer to a four-year college.

A CCRC study of Virginia Community College System students found that among all courses taken by all students, the online completion rate was 12.7 percentage points lower than the face-to-face completion rate. Among students who had taken at least one online course, online completion rates were 14.7 percentage points lower for all courses, 16.1 percentage points lower for English courses, and 18.7 percentage points lower for math courses. Among this subset of students, the completion rate for online developmental English was 22.3 percentage points lower, and the completion rate for online developmental math was 22.1 percentage points lower.

A CCRC study found that while all community college students show a decrement in performance in fully online courses, some students show a steeper decline than others, including male students, students with lower prior GPAs, and Black students. The performance gaps that exist among these subgroups in face-to-face courses become more pronounced in fully online courses. For instance, lower performing students (< 3.02 GPA) are 2 percent more likely to drop out of face-to-face courses than higher performing students (> 3.02 GPA). In online courses, lower performing students are 4 percent more likely to drop out. Black students overall receive a .3 point lower grade than White students in face-to-face courses (2.7 vs. 3.0 GPA). In fully online courses, they receive a .6 point lower grade (2.2 vs. 2.8 GPA).

CCRC data viz

CCRC's data visualizations offer an interactive way to explore trends in community college outcomes.

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