College online courses are costly, result in high drop-out rate, report says

Online education — considered by some a savior of sorts for cash-depleted universities and community colleges — actually costs more in the long run and does not deliver the goods, according to a series of reports.

The latest report concludes that efforts to expand online education into remedial and introductory classes is “misguided.”

The third in a series of reports by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education highlights the challenges underserved students face when taking online classes, the Times-Herald reports.

It suggests the courses they might widen the academic achievement gap among various groups.

In total, the reports examines costs and consequences of students taking many of their courses through a computer screen rather than in a classroom.

“One of the things we noticed is that there is a lot of rhetoric and promises but when you look at the facts it’s not that clear,” campaign member Susan Meisenhelder said.

One major concern is a large percentage of students (in some cases up to 90 percent) never finish the online courses they take, Meisenhelder said.

Solano Community College Vice President of Academic Affairs Diane White said 12 percent of the school’s courses are offered online. She said they do have benefits in offering more flexibility, but post challenges, too.

“It’s not for every student. It takes a very high degree of motivation,” White said. “What we’ve found is the achievement gap for students is greater in online classes than in face-to-face” classroom settings, she added.

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