Online Courses and the Achievement Gap

With the Chancellor’s recent “call to action,” much discussion is taking place at the Alamo Colleges about the need to compete for students in the online environment. While faculty are not necessarily opposed to the push for more classes online, we are very concerned about how hard and how far this push will go. Our concern centers around student success in our online courses.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed highlights this research study: Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed article:

The study found that all students who take more online courses, no matter the demographic, are less likely to attain a degree. However, some groups—including black students, male students, younger students, and students with lower grade-point averages—are particularly susceptible to this pattern.

Shanna Smith Jaggars, who is assistant director of the Community College Research Center and one of the paper’s authors, said the widening gap is troubling, as it could imply that online learning is weakening—not strengthening—education equality.

“We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and underprepared students,” Ms. Jaggars said. “They’re falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.”

Troubling to say the least.

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