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National Evidence of the Impact of First-Year Online Enrollment on Postsecondary Students’ Long-Term Academic Outcomes

Abstract

This study examines the influence of first-year online enrollment on the long-term academic outcomes of postsecondary students. Using a nationally representative sample and propensity score weighting, I find that enrolling in some online courses is associated with lower odds of dropping out of college. Additional results reveal a positive relationship between enrolling in some online courses and sub-baccalaureate indicators of long-term academic success, such as earning an associate’s degree and transferring from a community college to a 4-year institution.

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Notes

  1. “Some online courses” will be used throughout the paper; it suggests that students took at least one, but not all, of their courses online.

  2. This meta-analysis has received criticism for the following reasons: the majority of studies included in the meta-analysis had a sample size of fewer than 100 students, only half of the students were taking the course(s) for credit, and only 7 of the 45 studies included in the meta-analysis examined postsecondary students enrolled in semester-long online courses, which limits the generalizability of its conclusions for the majority of higher education institution offering online courses.

  3. This term can be used to describe the successful transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution.

  4. Previous work has suggested that students enrolled in hybrid courses achieve the same (Bowen et al. 2014) or greater (Means et al. 2013) academic outcomes when compared to their peers enrolled in face-to-face courses.

  5. Missing SAT scores and high school GPAs were imputed by applying a multiple imputation method with 20 iterations to impute the missing values for both variables before generating the propensity scores. The majority of respondents who were missing these values were enrolled at a 2-year institution during their first year.

  6. I ran additional specifications to examine the concentrated influence of online enrollment on bachelor’s degree attainment at public 4-year institutions relative to private 4-year institutions, but the results were not statistically significant.

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Correspondence to Justin C. Ortagus.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 6.

Table 6 Balance between first-year face-to-face and online students (pooled sample)

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Ortagus, J.C. National Evidence of the Impact of First-Year Online Enrollment on Postsecondary Students’ Long-Term Academic Outcomes. Res High Educ 59, 1035–1058 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-018-9495-1

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Keywords

  • Online education
  • Propensity score weighting
  • Long-term academic success
  • Degree completion
  • Vertical transfer