A Comparison of Online, Video Synchronous, and Traditional Learning Modes for an Introductory Undergraduate Physics Course

Abstract

While the equivalence between online and traditional classrooms has been well-researched, very little of this includes college-level introductory Physics. Only one study explored Physics at the whole-class level rather than specific course components such as a single lab or a homework platform. In this work, we compared the failure rate, grade distribution, and withdrawal rates in an introductory undergraduate Physics course across several learning modes including traditional face-to-face instruction, synchronous video instruction, and online classes. Statistically significant differences were found for student failure rates, grade distribution, and withdrawal rates but yielded small effect sizes. Post-hoc pair-wise test was run to determine differences between learning modes. Online students had a significantly lower failure rate than students who took the class via synchronous video classroom. While statistically significant differences were found for grade distributions, the pair-wise comparison yielded no statistically significance differences between learning modes when using the more conservative Bonferroni correction in post-hoc testing. Finally, in this study, student withdrawal rates were lowest for students who took the class in person (in-person classroom and synchronous video classroom) than online. Students that persist in an online introductory Physics class are more likely to achieve an A than in other modes. However, the withdrawal rate is higher from online Physics courses. Further research is warranted to better understand the reasons for higher withdrawal rates in online courses. Finding the root cause to help eliminate differences in student performance across learning modes should remain a high priority for education researchers and the education community as a whole.

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Correspondence to E. K. Faulconer.

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Faulconer, E.K., Griffith, J., Wood, B. et al. A Comparison of Online, Video Synchronous, and Traditional Learning Modes for an Introductory Undergraduate Physics Course. J Sci Educ Technol 27, 404–411 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-018-9732-6

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Keywords

  • Grade distribution
  • Online
  • Physics
  • Withdrawal rate