Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Study finds community college students performed less well on line than face to face

Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges (CCRC Working Paper No. 31)

By: Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars — March 2011. New York: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University

This report investigates enrollment patterns and academic outcomes in online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses among students who enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges in the fall of 2004. Students were tracked for nearly five years, until the spring of 2009. Results were similar to those found in a parallel study in Virginia.

Students who were employed for more hours and students who had demographic characteristics associated with stronger academic preparation were more likely to enroll in online courses; however, students who enrolled in hybrid courses were quite similar to those who enrolled in a purely face-to-face curriculum. After controlling for student characteristics using multilevel regression techniques, results indicated that students were more likely to fail or withdraw from online courses than from face-to-face courses. In addition, students who took online coursework in early terms were slightly but significantly less likely to return to school in subsequent terms, and students who took a higher proportion of credits online were slightly but significantly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year institution. In contrast, students were equally likely to complete a hybrid course as to complete a face-to-face course. Additional analyses with a new cohort of students entering in 2008 showed short-term results consistent with those of the 2004 cohort.

Given the importance of online learning in terms of student convenience and institutional flexibility, current system supports for online learning should be bolstered and strengthened in order to improve completion rates among online learners. Specific recommendations are discussed in the report’s conclusion.
Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges (CCRC Working Paper No. 31)


Is long-distance course delivery an answer to increasing campus liabilities?

Jim Castagnera

Calendar year 2007 will be recorded in the annals of American higher education as “The Year of Living Dangerously.” The industry’s loss leader, of course, was Virginia Tech, where the body count capped at 33.

Photo of Jim Castagnera
Jim Castagnera
Other bad news proliferated. At New Jersey’s Rider University, the alcohol-poisoning death of a fraternity pledge led to felony indictments of the dean of students and the Greek-life director for aggravated hazing. The county prosecutor dropped the charges six weeks later, but not before the event and the indictments had made national news.

A campus crisis can occur at any hour. For example, a staff member at the University of Chicago was the target of gunfire at half-past midnight on Monday, November 19th. At 1:15 a.m. two female students were robbed by a group of young men. Fifteen minutes later, yet another student was shot dead on the way to his apartment a block from the campus… all occurring in less than one hour!

Big-name schools are not immune. In October, the Yale Herald reported, “Though New Haven bills itself as the Elm City, the area has long been fighting a reputation for something far more sinister–its high rates of crime and violence. This semester’s wave of robberies and attempted break-ins on campus has brought security back to the forefront of student concerns.”

Little wonder, then, that liability insurance rates and college legal staffs are growing exponentially.

Distance Learning: the ultimate solution?

Does it sound far-fetched that online learning may be the ultimate solution? Might some institutions opt out of the residential-student business in favor of cultivating pure-commuter campuses? Before you dismiss these possibilities, consider:

* The technology is here. Thousands of professors now have alter egos, known as avatars, representing them on the world wide web. Many of them may be found at secondlife.com.
* Tenured and tenure-track faculty are a dying breed, only about 30 percent of the professorate today. Full- and part-time contingent faculty, provided with pre-packaged curricula, are ready, willing and able to “mail it in” on their home computers.
* Many students, too, are ready, willing and able to embrace education delivered at a distance. The phenomenal success of facebook.com supports this assertion. Little wonder that Microsoft, founded by a Harvard dropout, recently invested a quarter-billion bucks in Facebook, founded by another Harvard dropout. Facebook and MySpace, along with Second Life, have conditioned the “younger generation” to interact online, even with their teachers.

The “perfect storm” of compatible technologies, teachers and students is conjoined. I think savvy marketers will leverage this phenomenon with increasing aggressiveness and concomitant success.

Others see glimmers

I recently attended a meeting of New Jersey’s organization of independent colleges and universities, at which a representative state's Commission on Higher Education explained proposed licensure revisions in the Garden State.
One proposal would toughen the state’s standards for establishment of branch campuses. Cautioned one attendee, “Don’t punish those who want to deliver face-to-face and hybrid curricula to the benefit of distance-education purveyors.”

Will distance learning replace bricks-and-mortar in our lifetime? Not likely.

On the other hand, researchers report that the number of students who took at least one online course in 2005 increased by 39 percent over the prior year to 3.2 million. Proprietary and publicly traded schools are getting a real run for that money from state colleges and universities who have entered the growing online education market in a big way. As the off-campus delivery trend builds, online learning will likely take its place as a major component of our industry’s risk-management planning.

Jim Castagnera is a Philadelphia lawyer and writer.

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