RESEARCH LIBRARY

Although online courses are becoming increasingly popular in higher education, evidence is inconclusive regarding whether online students are likely to be as academically successful and motivated as students in face-to-face courses. In this study, we documented online and face-to-face students’ academic motivation and outcomes in community college mathematics courses, and whether differences might vary based on student characteristics (i.e., gender, underrepresented ethnic/racial minority status, first-generation college status, and adult learner status). Over 2,400 developmental mathematics students reported on their math motivation at the beginning (Week 1) and middle (Weeks 3, 5) of the semester. Findings indicated that online students received lower grades and were less likely to pass from their courses than face-to-face students, with online adult learners receiving particularly low final course grades and pass rates. In contrast, online and face-to-face students did not differ on incoming motivation, with subgroup analyses suggesting largely similar patterns of motivation across student groups. Together, findings suggest that online and face-to-face students may differ overall in academic outcomes but not in their motivation or differentially based on student characteristics. Small but significant differences on academic outcomes across modalities (Cohen’s ds = 0.17–0.28) have implications for community college students’ success in online learning environments, particularly for adult learners who are most likely to be faced with competing demands.

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