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Making the Connection: Broadband Access and Online Course Enrollment at Public Open Admissions Institutions

  • Benjamin T. Skinner
Article

Abstract

Postsecondary students increasingly enroll in online courses, which have the potential to further democratize higher education by expanding access for historically underserved populations. While a number of studies have investigated student outcomes in online courses, past data limitations have hindered robust examination of a potential mechanism underlying the decision to enroll in an online course: access to high speed broadband. With data from the National Broadband Map and IPEDS, I fit a number of Bayesian regression models to investigate the relationship between various measures of broadband access—download speed, upload speed, and the number of providers—and the number of students who take online courses at public colleges and universities with open admissions policies. Results show that increases in broadband speed at the lower end of the speed spectrum are positively associated with the number of students who take some of their courses online, but that the marginal gain diminishes as speeds increase. This finding suggests that there may be a minimum threshold of necessary broadband access, beyond which increases in speed become a less important factor in the take up of online coursework. Open admissions colleges seeking to improve access for local students through increased online course offerings should consider broadband access in the area, particularly if the targeted populations live in communities with low average broadband speeds.

Keywords

College access Open admissions Distance education Online Broadband Bayesian modeling 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported in part by the Bonsal Applied Education Research Award. I thank two anonymous reviewers as well as Angela Boatman, Josh Clinton, Stephen DesJardins, Will Doyle, Carolyn Heinrich and participants at the 2015 ASHE annual conference for their helpful comments and suggestions. This article is better for their help. All findings and conclusions remain my own.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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