Peter Shea: Does Online Learning Inhibit or Support Community College Student Success?

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Information about Peter Shea: Does Online Learning Inhibit or Support Community College...

Published on February 27, 2014

Author: alexandrapickett



Dr. Peter Shea
Does Online Learning Inhibit or Support Community College Student Success?
Using a nationally representative sample (The Beginning Postsecondary Student Survey, BPS 04/09), this study examined the associations between enrollment in credit-bearing distance education courses and degree attainment. We sought to determine whether US students enrolled in online/distance education courses during their first year of study at a community college tend to complete a degree (certificate, associate, or bachelor’s) at significantly lower rates than those who were not enrolled in such courses or programs. Unlike previous researchers, our findings indicated that students who take some of their early courses online or at a distance have a significantly better chance of attaining a community college credential than do their classroom-only counterparts. Implications for policy, practice, and theory related to student attrition, persistence, and success will be discussed.

presentation at the 15th annual SLN SOLsummit 2014 February 26, 2014

Dr. Peter Shea, Senior Researcher, SLN University at Albany, SUNY Dr. Temi Bidjerano Furman University

     Open SUNY – Open Journal Editor for the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN) Reinvigorating the journal You are invited! Register to be considered as a reviewer  ndex/user/register 

 What is it?

What is it?  “Avoidable” drop out? 

What is “access”?  “Full” benefits of higher education  Role of OLL in improving access to benefits  Previous theoretical and empirical work  New national study  › Question, methods, results, discussion

How do we measure access to HE?  Access to what?  What is the role of flexibility and convenience of online learning?  Has online learning improved access? How do we know?  Not as obvious as you might think… 

 Many (not all) of these benefits are contingent on completing a degree, not simply going to college…

US not producing sufficient numbers of college graduates  Losing competitive advantage in the global economy (Hebel, 2006; Kelderman, 2013)  Community Colleges:  › Six year national completion rates less than 20% › Justifiably or not, community colleges are target of criticism › But community colleges crucial to supporting US economy (College Board, 2008).

Spending on community college students has poor return on degree attainment  Delta project (Kirshtein & Wellman, 2012)  › “…half of instructional spending in community colleges goes to students (and credits) that do not attach to a degree or certificate” (p. 16) › Raises questions about efforts to increase access to community college students › Is it expensive and inefficient relative to benefits?

 Dramatic growth: 5.5-7M+ online enrollments in US  Most of them community college students but…  Does online learning merely increase the pool of a costly population of higher education learners who do not complete?  Crazy, right? Strong evidence that this may be the case…  But first, what theories inform research on degree completion?

Pre-entry Attributes Goals Institutional Experience Assumes these as “given” Integration Goals Outcome Why univariate outcome? Assumes these as “given” Where is institutional response? Where are “interventions”?

 „„We label none of the thirteen propositions of Tinto‟s theory as reliable knowledge [about] commuter colleges” (Braxton & Lee, 2005)

Assumes these as “given” academic variables academic outcomes learner characteristics decision to Drop-out environment environment al variables al variables psychological outcomes Assumes these as “given” Where is institutional response? Where are “interventions”?

Other Models: Falcone, 2012 Assumes these as “given” Multivariate Outcomes Assumes these as “given”

 What solid evidence do we have about online learning, degree completion, persistence, transfer etc?

 Online learning outcomes worse › Smith Jaggars & Xu, 2010; Xu & Smith Jaggars, 2011 Data: N=24,000 in 23 institutions in Virginia Community College System  More failing/withdrawing from online  Online students less likely to return  Students w higher proportion of credits online less likely to attain credential /transfer to 4 year institution 

Data: N=51,000 in 34 institutions in Washington State Community College System (Xu & Smith Jaggars, 2011)  Students with better preparation more likely to enroll in online courses…  But more likely to fail/withdraw  Students who took more online courses less likely to complete degree or transfer 

Best evidence does not support strategy of increasing access via online ed  Produces more college students but fewer with vital college credentials  OLL less efficient/effective in goal of producing more college grads in US  Questionable results re. “meaningful” access 

Our study uses a national, rather than state samples of community college students  Question: Does a national sample yield same results? 

Initial analysis of this NCES data revealed interesting patterns  Community College student seemed to do better with some distance courses  Even better when the courses were online … 

Cumulative persistence and attainment anywhere 2008-09 Attained Attained Attained No degree, bachelor's degree associate's degree certificate still enrolled No degree, left without return Total (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) 30.7 9.3 9.4 15 35.5 100% 8.9 13.5 9.6 8 15.1 14.3 35.2 38 100% 100% 0.37 0.38 0.55 0.65 Estimates Total Distance education 2004: Took courses No 31.2 Yes 26.3 Standard Error (BRR) Total 0.56 52% higher associates degree attainment?

Cumulative persistence and attainment anywhere 2008-09 Attained Attained bachelor's associate's degree degree Attained No degree, No degree, certificate still left enrolled without return Total (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) 30.7 9.3 9.4 15 35.5 100% Distance education used 2004: Internet No 31.2 Yes 25.5 8.9 14.1 9.6 7.3 15 15.1 35.3 38 100% 100% 0.37 0.38 0.55 0.65 Estimates Total Standard Error (BRR) Total 0.56 58% higher associates degree attainment?

Does not account for other factors  Possible that initial differences among these two groups accounts for the higher degree completion rate  Took steps to control for initial differences between students in two groups 

Degree attainment modeled as a function of enrollment in online/distance education courses at a community college  Controlling for a range of background characteristics 

(a) person variables: gender, age, race, risk index of dropping out (NCES derived), disability status, remedial coursework eligibility, traditional high school diploma or not (GED, certificate of completion, homeschooled), type of high school (public, private, other), total amount of loans during the first year etc.  (b) family variables: gross adjusted family income, parents‟ highest level of education, family size, siblings in college before respondent, parents taking college courses, parents‟ place of birth (U.S. vs. not);  (c) institutional variables: distance from home, historically black institution, Hispanic serving institution, accreditation, in-state institution, size of enrollment, percent of student body receiving federal grants, and type of institution (rural, suburban, urban or other). 

Matching attempts to mimic randomization in experimental design  Create a sample that received the treatment (DE/Online Ed)  Comparable on all 40 observed covariates to a sample that did not receive the treatment  Look at differences between these now matched samples 

 Data for BPS 04/09 collected from 16,100 first time beginning students at three points in time (in spring of 2004, 2006, 2009)  Participants in BPS represent target population of approximately 4,000,000 first time beginning post secondary students.  43.1% were first enrolled in two-year institutions offering associate‟s or certificate degree.

Net of 40 factors: More likely to take distance/online courses › Female students (p<.001), older students (p<.001), students from larger families (p<.05), students with a higher amount of institutional aid (p<.01) and loans (p<.05) › Students whose residence was at a greater distance from the institution › At greater risk of not completing a degree were somewhat more likely to be enrolled in distance education courses (p<.10). Net of 40 factors: Less likely to take distance/online courses › African –American students as compared to white students (p<.001) › Students who had indicated that location (p<.05) represents a reason for attending a particular institution.

 Positive Effects: › Number of months of full time enrollment increase the chances of degree attainment (B=.062, p<.001). › Students whose initial goal was to earn a certificate were about three times more likely to graduate (B = 1.168, p<.001)  Neutral Effects › No differences in the odds of degree completion between students with plans for a bachelor and those with a goal to earn an associate degree (B =.184, p>.05). › Number of institutions attended does not decrease the odds for degree (B = .072, n.s.).  Negative Effects › The number of periods of interruptions in continuous enrollment had a negative effect on the likelihood of degree attainment (B=-.232, p<.01)

 Distance Education Students: At higher risk for dropout  Didn‟t attend private high schools  Maybe not better prepared?  Despite this… 

Net of 40 other factors DE/online learners were 1.25 times as likely to attain any credential  When credential goal was certificate (rather than BA) DE/online learners were 3.22 times as likely to succeed 

Net of other differences the odds of graduating increase for students with early distance education coursework  Participation in online/distance learning does not appear to impede degree completion – perhaps facilitates it. 

Course Persistence Re-enrollment Preparedness or Transfer Degree Completion Virginia Study OLLs Lower OLLs Lower - OLLs Lower Washington Study OLLs Lower OLLs Lower OLLs more prepared OLLs Lower - OLLs same or less prepared? OLLs 1.25X3.2X Higher National Study - OLLs = Online Learners

Includes institutional response

Peter Shea, PhD Associate Professor Educational Theory and Practice & College of Computing and Information University at Albany, State University of New York

 Several notable findings: › Unlike previous researchers (Xu & Smith Jaggars, 2010; Smith-Jaggars and Xu, 2011) › We did not find that students who participated in online/distance education were better-prepared academically › The online/distance students were about the same or maybe less well prepared

Despite potential initial disadvantage did not replicate findings that online/distance community college students were less likely to complete a college credential.  National level data yields the opposite conclusion.  Evidence suggests that early participation in online learning and distance education predicts higher rates of community college degree attainment. 

     Women overrepresented in DE/Online courses DE/Online students more likely to receive financial aid and have loans An artifact of higher levels of enrollment in private, for profit institutions? For profits have demonstrated capacity to ensure DE students get maximum financial aid relative to public institutions (Clayton, 2011) Federal student loan data indicates students at for-profit institutions borrow more (and default more frequently) than those at public institutions (US Dept of Education, 2010)

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