California’s community colleges offer more online courses than any other public institution in the U.S., enrolling nearly 1 million students in online courses in 2010-2011. This study by the Public Policy Institute of California examines short- and long-term students outcomes, including participation, course completion, degree attainment, and transfer to four-year institutions. The report concludes that:
- In the short term, student outcomes are worse for students in online courses than for those in traditional courses.
- Students are less likely to complete an online course than a traditional course, and they are less likely to pass an online course with a passing grade.
- However, long term, the outcomes improve for students in online courses. Students who take some online courses are more likely to complete an associate degree and are more likely to transfer to a four-year institution than students who take only traditional courses.
- Even after controlling for a variety of student characteristics—including grade point average—and institutional factors, online course success rates were 11 to 14 points lower than traditional courses success rates.
- Further, achievement gaps by race and ethnicity are larger in online courses than in traditional courses.