Online Learning Practitioner Packet

Jaggars, Shanna; Edgecombe, Nicole Diane; Stacey, Georgia West

Since 2010, online college course enrollment has increased by 29 percent. Currently, 6.7 million students—or roughly one third of all college students—are enrolled in online courses. Community colleges in particular have embraced online education as a way to better serve their large numbers of nontraditional students, many of whom juggle multiple responsibilities. In 2008, 97 percent of two-year colleges were offering online courses—compared with only 66 percent of all postsecondary institutions. Despite this rapid growth in online education, little is known about the effectiveness of online courses for community college students. Over the past two years, CCRC has sought to fill this gap in knowledge by conducting studies of online course outcomes at two large statewide community college systems, one in a southern state and one in a western state. Student outcomes in online courses trail considerably behind those in face-to-face courses. In
order to gain insight into why this might be, CCRC undertook a series of studies that examined 23
high-demand, entry-level online courses at two community colleges in one state. CCRC researchers observed the online courses, reviewed course materials, and interviewed course instructors as well as 46 students who were enrolled in at least one of the courses. Together, these studies shed light on the fact that it is important for online instructors to actively and visibly engage with students in the teaching and learning process—perhaps with even greater intentionality than in face-to-face courses. In interviews, online students said that they placed a high value on interaction with their instructors, and a quantitative analysis indicates that higher levels of interpersonal interaction were correlated with better student performance in online courses. Drawing on our research, the following guide discusses how instructors can increase their presence in online courses in ways that may contribute to improved student retention and performance. It also describes a case study of a course in which the instructor used some basic interactive technologies to create a meaningful instructor presence.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Community College Research Center
Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 12, 2014