A recent study at two large statewide community college systems, one in a southern state and one in a western state, by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center (CCRC) shows that
- Overall course failure and withdrawal rates were significantly higher for online courses than for face-to-face courses.
- Failure and withdrawal rates for online gatekeeper courses were substantially higher than those for face-to-face gatekeeper courses.
- Students who took their developmental courses online fared particularly poorly. In both states, failure and withdrawal rates were sharply higher in online developmental courses; in online developmental English, failure and withdrawal rates were more than twice as high.
- Students who took developmental courses online were also significantly less likely to enroll in first-level gatekeeper math and English courses. Of students who did enroll in gatekeeper courses, students who had taken developmental education online were far less likely to pass than students who had taken it face-to-face.
The conclusion of the study is that
community college students who choose to take courses online are less likely to complete and perform well in those courses. The results also suggest that online courses may exacerbate already persistent achievement gaps between student subgroups.