Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges
This report investigates enrollment patterns and academic outcomes in online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses among students who enrolled in Washington State community and technical colleges in the fall of 2004. Students were tracked for nearly five years, until the spring of 2009. Results were similar to those found in a parallel study in Virginia. Students who were employed for more hours and students who had demographic characteristics associated with stronger academic preparation were more likely to enroll in online courses; however, students who enrolled in hybrid courses were quite similar to those who enrolled in a purely face-to-face curriculum. After controlling for student characteristics using multilevel regression techniques, results indicated that students were more likely to fail or withdraw from online courses than from face-to-face courses. In addition, students who took online coursework in early terms were slightly but significantly less likely to return to school in subsequent terms, and students who took a higher proportion of credits online were slightly but significantly less likely to attain an educational award or transfer to a four-year institution. In contrast, students were equally likely to complete a hybrid course as to complete a face-to-face course. Additional analyses with a new cohort of students entering in 2008 showed short-term results consistent with those of the 2004 cohort. Given the importance of online learning in terms of student convenience and institutional flexibility, current system supports for online learning should be bolstered and strengthened in order to improve completion rates among online learners. Specific recommendations are discussed in the report‘s conclusion.
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