Community College Student Success in Online Versus Equivalent Face-to-Face Courses
Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
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AbstractAs part of a nationwide effort to increase the postsecondary educational attainment levels of citizens, community colleges have expanded offerings of courses and programs to more effectively meet the needs of students. Online courses offer convenience and flexibility that traditional face-to-face classes do not. These features appeal to students with family and work responsibilities that typically make attending classes on campus difficult. However, many of the students who tend to take courses in this instructional format have characteristics that place them at high-risk for academic failure. Because of the traditional mission of community colleges, they generally serve more students who fit this highrisk profile. Despite the promise and potential of online delivery systems, studies have associated distance education with higher student withdrawal rates. In addition, research has indicated that online students tend to earn lower grades than students in comparable face-to-face classes. The existence of contrasting findings in the literature exposes the need for additional empirical research relative to the overall success of students in online courses, as well as on factors associated with success in distance education. This is especially true for community college students. The purpose of this study was to determine if significant differences existed in student success at the community college level in online courses as compared to face-to-face courses. In addition, the researchers investigated the relationship between selected demographic, academic, enrollment, and external environmental factors and student success in online courses. The study involved secondary data analysis of quantitative data relevant to students enrolled in course sections taught by instructors who taught both online and face-to-face sections of the same course within the same semester from fall 2012 through spring 2015. The target population included 4,604 students enrolled at a public 2-year community college located in Tennessee. Results indicated there was a significant difference in success between students taking a course online and students taking a course face-to-face. Also, there was a significant difference in success based on instructional method when the following factors were considered: age group, gender, student academic classification, and Pell Grant eligibility status. There was no significant difference in success based on instructional method when first-generation college student status was considered.