Online students match in-person peers

LINCOLN, Neb., Nov. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. students taking online courses feel less connected and miss a sense of community but performed just as well as their in-class counterparts, a study found.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln surveyed students' perception and performance in three undergraduate science courses that had both online and face-to-face class versions, a university release said.


The same instructors taught both versions of each of the courses.

The researchers found online students did not feel a sense of cohesion, community spirit, trust or interaction, elements thought to foster effective classroom learning.

Yet when asked about their perception of their own learning, online students reported levels equal to those reported by face-to-face students, and ultimately their grades were equivalent to their in-person peers, the researchers found.

"We wanted to determine if online students felt the same way about their classes that face-to-face students did and if so, whether or not that affected their grades," Robert Vavala, a UNL graduate student who authored the study, said.

Though the results suggest face-to-face courses are no more effective for student learning than online courses, Vavala said, they also suggest online courses could be even more effective if they could foster a culture of class cohesion, spirit, trust and interaction among students.


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