Abstract

This paper uses fixed effects analyses to estimate differences in student performance under online versus face-to-face course delivery formats in the California Community College system. On average, students have poorer outcomes in online courses in terms of the likelihood of course completion, course completion with a passing grade, and receiving an A or B. These estimates are robust across estimation techniques, different groups of students, and different types of classes. Accounting for differences in instructor characteristics (including through the use of instructor fixed effects) dampens but does not fully explain the estimated relationships. Online course-taking also has implications for downstream outcomes, although these effects are smaller. Students are more likely to repeat courses taken online, but are less likely to take new courses in the same subject following courses taken online.

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