2010 November 18 Thursday
Online Students Perform As Well As In-Person Students

In-person students performed no better than online students in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study.

College students participating in a new study on online courses said they felt less connected and had a smaller sense of classroom community than those who took the same classes in person but that didnt keep online students from performing just as well as their in-person counterparts.

The study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln gauged students' perception and performance in three undergraduate science courses that had both online and face-to-face class versions. It found that online students did not feel a sense of cohesion, community spirit, trust or interaction, elements that have been shown to foster effective classroom learning.

At the same time, in the portion of the survey about students' perception of their own learning, online students reported levels equal to those reported by face-to-face students and at the end of the day, their grades were equivalent to their in-person peers.

Education is taking longer to go online than the news. But cost, convenience, and eventually quality of online classes will eventually all surpass the average available in-person classes in bricks-and-mortar classrooms. Why watch an average or below-average lecturer live when you can watch a recorded video by one of the best lecturers on a subject? Videos of course lectures will allow the vast majority of students to watch better courses than they'd get to watch live in-person. Learning software will develop to the point where it drills you better than any tutor. So why pay more?

The biggest argument for going to a physical college is going to be the prestige associated with the college name. People who graduate from Harvard or Yale or MIT managed to get accepted to these schools in the first place. That's a powerful signal to employers that these students are smart and disciplined enough to get into top colleges. But for the vast majority of college students the name of their college or university does not signal anything special about their intellectual abilities. So why not go the cheaper and more convenient route?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 November 18 06:30 PM  Education Online


Comments
Anonymous Coward said at November 18, 2010 6:46 PM:

A major advantage that the brick and mortar colleges will keep for a long time is the allure of a four-year bacchanalia to a seventeen year old, even or especially to a seventeen year old who has spent his or her teenage years studying and grinding away to get into a top college.

Old Bruin EE said at November 19, 2010 1:38 AM:

Over a decade ago, I read the comments of a graduate dean from my old university who had been traveling to Europe. According to him, colleges in Europe have forked into 2 different types: one which provides basic education and training (such as the former British polytechnics), and a more elite and demanding research-oriented university. He said that such a system would come to the US eventually.

I think on-line education can serve the former type of colleges well, but would have more limited applications for the latter, where face-time, brainstorming and idea-bouncing is much more prevalent. Conducting research in graduate school in the sciences is a full-time job in itself (though certainly more funfilled and entertaining), so just many types of jobs are not conducive to telecommuting, neither is on-line education for the research-oriented schools.

Wolf-Dog said at November 19, 2010 2:51 AM:

>> colleges in Europe have
>>forked into 2 different types: one which provides basic education and
>>training (such as the former British polytechnics), and a more elite and demanding
>>research-oriented university. .
>>I think on-line education can serve the former type of colleges well,
>>but would have more limited applications for the latter, where face-time,
>>brainstorming and idea-bouncing is much more prevalent.

This is not exactly true: for brainstorming and deep research, online interaction can be even better, because with future advanced interactive technology, several people will be able to communicate simultaneously, in ways that are unimaginable for people simply sitting in a lecture room. In fact, even in ordinary lecture rooms there will be much more advanced computer graphics systems with three dimensional visualization and virtual reality goggles students will be wearing to immerse themselves into the molecular diagram to visualize the quantum many body interactions, or to visualize 3 dimensional algebraic diagrams to understand the essence of an idea in the lecture room, while talking to people. Thus the "brainstorming and research-level education" that you are talking about, will be even more enhanced online. To discuss new ideas you will be able to interact with people in foreign countries online as if you are there.

But elitism will not suffer from this system, on the contrary, smart people will find similar people and they will form various professional associations and groups of friends they will choose who to admit. So snobbery will not suffer as a way of life, but information and good education will no longer be restricted on the basis of tuition fees. In fact, truly smart people are not snobs, and they often do answer my emails when I ask a specific question, even if I am not at their university.

In fact, the smartest people, armed with this new information and thought development technology, will even afford to stay at home instead of personally meeting people.

Randall Parker said at November 19, 2010 8:46 PM:

Old Bruin EE,

Only a small fraction of all college students are there to get training to become researchers. So while you make a good point it is a point that does not apply to most colleges and universities and it doesn't even apply to make students at research universities. So I think online learning might cut in-person education by well more than half.

Wolf-Dog,

I think as telepresence technology advances and reaches the mainstream it will cut the need for face-to-face contact. So, yes, more research collaboration will be done remotely. Also, many more people will collaborate in in more permutations of collaborators.

Universalgeni said at November 20, 2010 8:18 AM:

Dutch and Dutch. Remember: not all Dutch students are Dutch. In Holland - or the Netherlands as the country is also called - they have a high number of immigrants. In Denmark the female immigrants from certain non-Western countries wont work. Or are forbidden to by their husbands. The same in Holland. The pattern is a family with a lot of children and only one adult working. The big family will have to share only one - often low - salary between them.

When this is compared to a European family - where you find two adults working and a lower number of children - the left is at it again. Simple economics such as both parents earning an income are not to blame for this relative poverty. Nor is the culture that make immigrants refuse women equality and ordinary rights to be held responsible.

Oh, no: it's racism. The Europeans did it...


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