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Study: Failure, dropping out more common in online courses

While online classes have the draw of a flexible schedule and customized learning pace, a recent study said they might not be for everyone.

The Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College found that students who took a class online were more likely to fail or drop out of that class, compared to students who took the same course in person.

Results from the research also showed men did worse than women in online classes, in terms of both grades and course completion.

Older students were also less likely to complete an online class compared to if they took the class in-person. However, for those that did complete the online classes, their grades were slightly higher, than those of younger students.

The study looked at how 40,000 students performed in about 500,000 online and in person courses at Washington State’s 34 community and technical colleges from 2004-09, according to the study.

Robert Griffiths, a senior associate director of digital scholarship in the Office of Academic Affairs at OSU, said the Office of Distance Education and eLearning provides training to faculty to help students who are struggling in online courses.

Griffiths said in order for a student to be successful in an online class, a student should make sure he or she understands what is expected of them, as well as the requirements for the course.

“Other themes include being a person who is self-motivated and proactive and a strong communicator,” Griffiths said.

Daniel McDonald, a professor in the School of Communication at OSU, taught a communication class online during Fall Semester 2013.

Some of the students in his online class did struggle a bit, McDonald said, but he said that was more associated with the technology aspect of the course.

McDonald said after viewing the study, he wasn’t sure how much its results apply to OSU students because they should have easy access to the professors if they are struggling.

“Most of our online enrollment is made up of Columbus campus area residents,” McDonald said. “That means they can talk with the professors who are teaching the online courses.”

If students are struggling in a class, McDonald said they need to put in the same effort they would if they were in a face-to-face classroom setting. That includes being organized, doing the assigned readings and always knowing where they stand in the class grade-wise.

“Most important, ask for help at the first sign of trouble,” McDonald said. “Sometimes the simplest things can make all the difference.”

Derrick Huang, a second-year in biomedical engineering, said he believes the results of the study that indicated men perform more poorly in online courses than women are often true. Huang said some women are more likely to get their work done earlier than some men, which makes them more successful.

“Girls tend to do better … because they have higher self control and often tend to read their textbooks regularly,” he said. “It seems guys tend to slack off more and wait till the last minute to read, which causes them to do worse.”

Karly Jones, a fourth-year in psychology, is currently taking two online classes. She said students are more likely to struggle with online classes because often times they don’t put in as much effort.

“I feel that many people procrastinate for online courses and then pile all the information in right before an exam, which does not benefit them in any way,” Jones said.

Jones said any student who is thinking about taking online classes should be prepared for hard work.

“You are teaching yourself the material so if you are a hands-on (learner), then you should avoid taking online classes,” Jones said.

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