A recent study from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University suggests that while low-cost online courses may provide more opportunity to try college, the achievement gap can also be widening among students.
Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas studied 500,000 online courses taken by 40,000 community- and technical-college students in Washington state. It found that students taking more online courses were less likely to earn a degree, particularly among the demographics of black students, male students, younger students, and students with low grade-point averages. Older students with families and female students fared much better, according to the research.
“We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and underprepared students,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of the CCRC. “They are falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.”
On the other hand, Kathy B. Enger, director of the Northern Lights Library Network, suggests online education gives minority students more freedom of expression and that problems students may have are probably because the instructor isn’t reaching out to them in the right ways.
“If it’s not working, find out what’s not working. Then make it work,” Enger told The Chronicle of Higher Education.