Online courses are an increasingly important part of students’ college experience, but how does this impact what students glean from their college experience? Trends toward online learning were evident even before the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, more than 30% of all students enrolled at postsecondary institutions took at least one online course in the fall 2016 term.
Advocates of online education suggest that departments offering online courses can support their students through the ease of access to coursework; for example, internet-based learning can help students avoid scheduling conflicts and offer students greater flexibility to pursue outside activities, like working a part-time job. In addition, online courses are a cost-effective mode of offering college-level instruction for most universities. However, prior research indicates that students perform slightly worse and have lower course retention within online learning compared to traditional face-to-face classes.