From the Field

The Negative Consequences of the Shift to Online Learning

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When community college courses moved on line amid the pandemic, did the shift affect student success? In a new working paper, researchers Kelli Bird, Benjamin Castleman, and Gabrielle Lohner of the University of Virginia found decidedly negative results for Virginia’s community college students.

Bird and her colleagues’ main finding links the shift to online instruction due to the COVID-19 crisis to an estimated 6.7 percentage point decrease in course completion due to withdrawal or failure. They also found that the negative impact was more pronounced among lower performing and less experienced students. The researchers use administrative data from the Virginia Community College System from the spring of 2016 to 2020. Their overall sample size consists of 295,515 students.

The researchers work highlights the education related challenges faced by students during the pandemic. This work has prompted Bird and her colleagues to recommend that schools target support services towards students with less experience in an online learning environment, and to provide assistance to instructors so that they can do their best to replicate in-person learning online.

By Nima Rahimi