Students who take online classes in community college don't do as well as those who take traditional, face-to-face classes, a new study shows.
Community college students fail online courses at a higher rate than traditionally-taught, face-to-face courses, a new study out of California has found.
The results underscore the findings of a similar study in Washington two years ago. But educators at Washington’s community colleges have been working to try to close the gaps.
The latest study, from researchers at the University of California-Davis, reveals that California community college students were 11 percent less likely to finish and pass an online course than students who took the course in person. Two years ago, a study of Washington’s community colleges found that completion rates for online courses were 6 to 10 percentage points lower than courses taught face-to-face.
Since that study came out, Washington’s community colleges have done training for faculty members throughout the system to improve the quality of online courses, said Laura McDowell, spokeswoman for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).
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And SBCTC has adopted a learning management system called Canvas that more effectively delivers online education, McDowell said. The program allows faculty to present course materials, a calendar, grade book, email, discussion boards and online quizzes, and it makes it easier to manage conversations between faculty and students, McDowell said.
A number of colleges have taken additional, specific steps. For example, Seattle Central College’s Center for Extended Learning works to make sure students who sign up understand what they’re getting into before they register for an online class. Highline College has created a faculty learning community to figure out how to infuse technology into basic education classes. And Shoreline Community College has hired people for two new positions that support online students.
This fall and winter, several community colleges in the Washington system will begin offering an online, competency-based associate degree in business, with all credits transferable to a Washington public four-year college. Some of the lessons learned from that program are likely to help the colleges improve all online courses, McDowell said.