The Colorado Department of Higher Education released a study that found little statistical evidence that Colorado Community College System students taking online science courses earned grades significantly different from those of students taking traditional, in-class courses. The research also suggested students taking online science courses at the community college level performed as well in science classes at four-year institutions as students who took traditional science classes.
Students in the study were enrolled in first-year biology, chemistry, and physics courses, with 2,395 taking the course online and 2,190 taking it in a traditional classroom setting. The research looked at cumulative GPA, credit hours, and science-only GPA.
Researchers found that grades earned in traditional biology and chemistry classes were higher than for students taking the course online, but physics grades were similar for students in both classroom and online settings. Online students also had GPAs similar to or higher overall than their classroom counterparts.
While the Colorado study may show students are being adequately prepared by taking online courses, people still are not flocking to take them. In fact, an article in U.S. News & World Report suggests just the opposite, reporting a majority of prospective students in an Eduventures report preferred in-class instruction over online-only or majority-online courses. The study went on to note that 38% of the 1,500 adults 18-70 prefer online classes, which is only up 1% since 2006, but that online course enrollment is up to 10% over the same six-year period.
“The good news is that there is still a significant gap between preference and participation,” wrote the authors of the Eduventures report. “The bad news is that the gap is shrinking, and cautions that unless online delivery develops a broader value proposition, long-term growth may prove elusive.”