More California community college students are taking online courses than a decade ago, but fewer are completing and passing those classes compared with traditional ones, according to a study released Wednesday. Overall, enrollment in online community college courses grew by almost 1 million classes between 2002 and 2012, according to the study, conducted by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California. The group studied six years of data, including grades and course enrollment, from the state’s 112 two-year colleges, which make up the largest two-year college system in the country.
The availability of online learning is doing some really strange things to California’s community college students: It’s dramatically increasing their persistence to a degree, but it’s lowering how often they finish each course with a passing grade. “In every academic subject area, students are less likely to succeed in online than in traditional courses,” explains a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California. On the other hand, the report says, “It appears that the availability and flexibility of online courses help many students achieve their long-term educational goals.” Over the long term, students taking 60 or more credits are much more likely to get a degree when they take classes online. But, as for completing and passing each individual course, the report states, “We find that online course success rates are between 11 and 14 percentage points lower than traditional course success rates.” Bummer.