IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The impact of online learning on students’ course outcomes: Evidence from a large community and technical college system


  • Xu, Di
  • Jaggars, Shanna Smith


Using a large administrative dataset from a statewide system including 34 community and technical colleges, the authors employed an instrumental variable technique to estimate the impact of online versus face-to-face course delivery on student course performance. The travel distance between each student's home and college campus served as an instrument for the likelihood of enrolling in an online section of a given course. In addition, college-by-course fixed effects controlled for within- and between-course selection bias. Analyses yield robust negative estimates for online learning in terms of both course persistence and course grade, contradicting the notion that there is no significant difference between online and face-to-face student outcomes—at least within the community college setting. Accordingly, both two-year and four-year colleges may wish to focus on evaluating and improving the quality of online coursework before engaging in further expansions of online learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Xu, Di & Jaggars, Shanna Smith, 2013. "The impact of online learning on students’ course outcomes: Evidence from a large community and technical college system," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 46-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:37:y:2013:i:c:p:46-57 DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2013.08.001

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David Figlio & Mark Rush & Lu Yin, 2013. "Is It Live or Is It Internet? Experimental Estimates of the Effects of Online Instruction on Student Learning," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(4), pages 763-784.
    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. Nikolay Nenovsky & S. Statev, 2006. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00260898, HAL.
    4. M. Ruth & K. Donaghy & P. Kirshen, 2006. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Regional Climate Change and Variability, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2003. "Cluster-Sample Methods in Applied Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 133-138, May.
    6. Stock, James H & Wright, Jonathan H & Yogo, Motohiro, 2002. "A Survey of Weak Instruments and Weak Identification in Generalized Method of Moments," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(4), pages 518-529, October.
    7. Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 1995. "Democratization or Diversion? The Effect of Community Colleges on Educational Attainment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 217-224, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Wolff, Edward N. & Baumol, William J. & Saini, Anne Noyes, 2014. "A comparative analysis of education costs and outcomes: The United States vs. other OECD countries," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1-21.
    2. Joyce, Ted & Crockett, Sean & Jaeger, David A. & Altindag, Onur & O'Connell, Stephen D., 2015. "Does classroom time matter?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 64-77.
    3. John M. Krieg & Steven E. Henson, 2016. "The Educational Impact of Online Learning: How Do University Students Perform in Subsequent Courses?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 11(4), pages 426-448, Fall.
    4. repec:bla:jorssa:v:180:y:2017:i:2:p:475-502 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Bhavik K. Pathak, 2016. "Emerging online educational models and the transformation of traditional universities," Electronic Markets, Springer;IIM University of St. Gallen, vol. 26(4), pages 315-321, November.
    6. Nick Huntington-Klein & James Cowan & Dan Goldhaber, 2017. "Selection into Online Community College Courses and Their Effects on Persistence," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(3), pages 244-269, May.

    More about this item


    Online learning; Community colleges; Student performance; Instrumental variable analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:37:y:2013:i:c:p:46-57. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.