Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success

Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success

By
Eric Bettinger, Lindsay Fox, Susanna Loeb, Eric S. Taylor
American Economic Review. September
2017, Vol. 107, Issue 9, Pages 2855-75

Online college courses are a rapidly expanding feature of higher education, yet little research identifies their effects relative to traditional in-person classes. Using an instrumental variables approach, we find that taking a course online, instead of in-person, reduces student success and progress in college. Grades are lower both for the course taken online and in future courses. Students are less likely to remain enrolled at the university. These estimates are local average treatment effects for students with access to both online and in-person options; for other students, online classes may be the only option for accessing college-level courses.