I read an interesting study recently, “A Randomized Assessment of Online Learning,” published in the American Economic Review.
The authors studied the difference between student performance in three formats of the same class: an online format, a fully in-person format, and a blended format. Students were randomly assigned to one of the formats. The result? Just looking at students who completed the course, the online students scored five percentage points worse on the final exam compared with the other two formats. (There was not a significant difference between the other two formats.) Considering all the students who started the class, the online format looked even worse: more students dropped from the online class than the other formats.
My reaction: Even though there are incredible free resources for self-education, students still benefit from the structure schools provide, including the accountability of showing up to show their smiling faces to an instructor.