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Why not? Examining college students’ reasons for avoiding an online course

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A large number of studies have compared learning outcomes in fully online courses to those in face-to-face courses. Fewer studies have examined why students choose to enrol in fully online courses to begin with, and no study has yet addressed the question of why some students choose not to register in online courses. This study contributes to scholarly understanding of online education by examining for the first time why students may choose to take a large lecture course face-to-face, when they know that the same course is offered by their institution online in the same semester, for the same credit and at the same tuition cost. Through a survey, 48 students in a face-to-face offering of an introductory Educational Psychology course reported why they chose to attend lectures and tutorials in person when they could have earned the same credit without doing so. A majority of respondents suggested that they believed they would learn better face-to-face, and expressed informal theories about why this would be the case. We examine these informal theories, and the possible implications they may have for future research and institutional planning with regard to online course offerings.

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Correspondence to D. Kevin O’Neill.

Appendix : Student survey

Appendix : Student survey

How did you get to campus today? (choose one)

  • Drove by myself in a car

  • Shared a ride with one or more other people

  • Took transit (bus/train)

  • Walked/cycled

How many minutes (approximately) did it take you to get to campus? ______

Why did you decide to take the face-to-face (not online) version of this course (check all that apply)?

  • Didn’t realize I could take it online

  • Online version was full

  • Don’t like online courses

  • Find online courses more difficult than face-to-face courses

  • Thought I would learn more in this version

  • Thought I would get a better grade in this version

  • Wanted to minimize my effort in this course

  • Other

  • ________________________________________________________

If you like, offer any comments you like on your choice of the face-to-face course?

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O’Neill, D.K., Sai, T.H. Why not? Examining college students’ reasons for avoiding an online course. High Educ 68, 1–14 (2014).

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