Giving Compass’ Take:
• A professor and online educator is dubious whether or not online courses are giving way to a retention crisis in education during COVID-19.
• The author maintains that faculty and human connection is the key to reducing the retention gap between online and face-to-face classes. How can schools take this into account to innovate online education for the best results?
• Read about COVID-19’s long-term impact on the education system.
There is plenty for higher education leaders and professors to fear in the fall. Will students come back? Will in-person classes lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases? Will faculty be ready to teach whatever kind of hybrid, hyflex, at a podium behind plexiglass—or yet-to-be-determined mode we are forced into by the circumstances of the moment?
But if students and faculty return to classes that are entirely online, there is a looming crisis that few are giving serious consideration: retention.
Retention means students are actually passing the classes they enroll in. We were able to muddle through the latter part of the pandemic spring semester, but will students be able to successfully complete an entire fall semester of fully online classes? There are legitimate reasons, supported by empirical data, to expect that a significant number of students will fail or drop out when faced with a full load of online classes.
Retention in online classes is consistently lower than retention in face-to-face classes—anywhere from 5 to 35 percent lower. So students are statistically more likely to fail and drop out of online classes. Although it may be tempting to blame the students who enroll in online classes, robust statistical analyses have demonstrated that online classes have lower retention rates even when we control for student demographic and academic characteristics.
My intent is not to disparage online education. I have been teaching online at a public university for more than a decade. I have seen access to online education change the lives of my students— some of whom wouldn’t be able to go to college any other way. But I am also a social scientist, and I can’t ignore what the data tell me.
My own research indicates that the more online classes students take in a given semester, the less likely they are to stay enrolled in college. Adding one or two online classes to a student’s course load can actually help—online classes provide flexibility, helping students balance school, work, and family. But beyond a certain tipping point, around 40 percent of course load, more online classes lead to less successful students.
Read the full article about online classes by Rebecca A. Glazier at EdSurge.
Since you are interested in Ed System Reform, have you read these selections from Giving Compass related to impact giving and Ed System Reform?
Looking for a way to get involved?
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