Graduate faster, learn less – The paradox of online classes

An analysis of more than 10,000 students at the University of California (UC), Irvine in the United States found that online courses helped students finish their bachelor degrees faster than in-person classes, but their grades were lower, writes Jill Barshay for The Hechinger Report.

The experience of UC Irvine students suggests a tension between the dual purposes of higher education – to confer diplomas and to impart knowledge. Colleges have been rightly criticised for poor graduation rates. Only 41% of undergraduates succeeded in completing a four-year degree in four years, according to the most recent data from the US Department of Education. But, as an outside observer, I find it upsetting that a potential solution to improving graduation rates is to sacrifice learning.

Students often do worse because online courses require more planning and discipline, what educators call “self regulation”, explained Christian Fischer, an assistant professor of education at the University of Tübingen in Germany and lead author of these California studies, published in the journals of The Internet and Higher Education in April 2020 and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis in November 2021.
Full report on The Hechinger Report site