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Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success

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  • Eric P. Bettinger
  • Lindsay Fox
  • Susanna Loeb
  • Eric S. Taylor

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric P. Bettinger & Lindsay Fox & Susanna Loeb & Eric S. Taylor, 2017. "Virtual Classrooms: How Online College Courses Affect Student Success," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(9), pages 2855-2875, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:107:y:2017:i:9:p:2855-75
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20151193
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rajeev Darolia & Cory Koedel & Paco Martorell & Katie Wilson & Francisco Perez‐Arce, 2015. "Do Employers Prefer Workers Who Attend For‐Profit Colleges? Evidence from a Field Experiment," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 34(4), pages 881-903, September.
    2. Coates, Dennis & Humphreys, Brad R. & Kane, John & Vachris, Michelle A., 2004. ""No significant distance" between face-to-face and online instruction: evidence from principles of economics," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 533-546, October.
    3. Cellini, Stephanie Riegg & Chaudhary, Latika, 2014. "The labor market returns to a for-profit college education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 125-140.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:reihed:v:59:y:2018:i:7:d:10.1007_s11162-017-9490-y is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:spr:reihed:v:60:y:2019:i:2:d:10.1007_s11162-018-9507-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:ireced:v:28:y:2018:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Cacault, M. Paula & Hildebrand, Christian & Laurent-Lucchetti, Jérémy & Pellizzari, Michele, 2019. "Distance Learning in Higher Education: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 12298, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. repec:bla:coecpo:v:36:y:2018:i:4:p:667-677 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:jtc:journl:v:2:y:2018:i:2:p:104-114 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education

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