Students Taking Online Courses Tend to Perform Less

By Kenny Jimison

Students perform worse in online classes than in on-campus classes.

According to recent data collected at College of Southern Nevada, School of Arts and Letters Interim Dean Lester Tanaka said enrollment in online courses is up 18 percent compared to five year ago. That is no surprise in this high-tech environment where students want to take classes online.

Unfortunately the pass rate in those online courses is lower than for students who take courses on campus. Tanaka said the pass rate for traditional classes is around 74 percent; whereas, pass rate for online is 67 percent. What this means is students are not performing as well online. For example, an A student in an on-campus course would be a B+ student online.

Mimicking CSN data, national research proves similar outcomes. According to a 2015 study by Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, taking courses online reduces student achievement—as measured by course grades—in that term and following term. There is a snow-ball effect.

Tanaka said that the College is considering creating a mandatory orientation for online students to set expectations to increase their performances. He mentioned that some students think that online classes are easier but he assures that the quality of teaching is upheld and that the courses’ rigors stand.

CSN biology Professor Dawn Nelson said, “To be effective, an online class requires a motivated student and a motivated instructor. I also think that online courses work better when an instructor takes a very active role in the information that they provide to their students.” In her opinion, “The number of students who do really poorly tends to be higher in the online classes. An online class requires a higher degree of motivation than an in-person class. Students are also less likely to ask for help when they need it in an online class. The burden of actually learning and actually doing the hard work falls even more squarely on a student’s shoulders than ever before.”

Although statistics at CSN are showing lesser success in online courses for students, many studies prove the opposite.

In the study titled “A comparison of student achievement and satisfaction in an online verses a traditional face-to-face statistics class” in Innovative Higher Education journal, it found that student grades were the same for online and onsite courses. “However, students enrolled in the online course were significantly less satisfied with the course than the traditional classroom students on several dimensions.”

Christina Wilson, a CSN student, said, “I don’t know if I’d be able to tell anyone what I learned in an online class because it’s a lot copying and pasting exam questions into an internet search bar to get the correct answers. At the time, it might seem great because you’ve found yourself in a class that will potentially give you an easy A but in the long run online classes where all the answers are a Google search away are doing a disservice to students.”

“Online classes and regular in-class lectures are so different,” said Viridiana Sarabia, CSN student. “I enjoy both because each version has a different challenge for a student. In class lectures, a student can participate more and, of course, we have the professor there for any questions we might have. Online, it’s pretty much teaching yourself and keeping track of every assignment. Once I got the hang of it, I did pretty well. Since then I have been taking online classes and do well with them.”

CSN student Usiel Teran-Holguin said, “I took an online class for the convenience of flexibility in my work schedule and I wanted to do assignments at my own pace. I think some classes are perfectly fine online; whereas, others are better in-person because it requires hands on. It is great because you interact with other students. Online is less stressful when it comes to exams but you have to be extra responsible and careful of deadlines.”

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