A small study, Choosing Between Online and Face-to-Face Courses: Community College Student Voices, found students often choose traditional classroom instruction for courses they believe are difficult, such as science and math, rather than take the same class online. Flexibility and convenience are the main reasons students prefer online courses, particularly nontraditional students with jobs and family, but they prefer the interaction with instructors and peers of the traditional classroom setting for subjects of special interest.
The research, done by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teacher College, analyzed information obtained from interviews of 46 students from two unidentified community colleges in the U.S.
“Most students felt they did not learn the course material as well when they took it online,” the report said. “For most students, this deficit was due to reduced teacher explanation and interaction; for some respondents, the weaker student-student interaction was also problematic. As a result, students did not want to risk taking difficult courses online and preferred richer experience of the face-to-face classroom when learning about subjects they felt were particularly interesting or important.”
Students said they preferred a more traditional setting for courses such as math, lab sciences, and languages, because “they needed the immediate question-and-answer context of a face-to-face course,” according to a report in eCampus News.