Online Courses Aren’t For Everyone

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Published on August 11, 2010 with No Comments

Freshman taking distance learning classes were twice as likely to receive grades of D or F or to withdraw from the course compared to their counterparts in face-to-face classes, according to research at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. Older students fared much better in the online courses.

“Freshmen really stood out,” Mark Urtel, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Education in IUPUI’s School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, said. “It’s counterintuitive – people say younger students are the ones who grasp technology, use it most, and know it the best, but it’s my opinion that they grasp the technology and use it on their terms, not necessarily ours.”

Urtel’s study is based on students’ grades in a course he taught both online and face-to-face. Initially, he noticed patterns in students’ grades so he sought funding for further study because of the growing popularity of online courses. Freshmen, he said, are generally under-represented in research involving online courses. According to Urtel, online courses also enjoy the perception that they must be better, appropriate or even easy because they involve high-tech approaches.

Urtel said distance education courses work well for some students, but freshmen need to be aware of the pitfalls and challenges involved. In his study, 60 percent of freshmen received either a D, F or withdrew from the class.

“Given the rapid growth of distance education and on-line learning, some people may assume that it involves technology, it’s got to be better,” he said. “Our findings, as they relate to freshmen students in particular, suggest otherwise.”

This information was provided by the Indiana University News Room. For tips on how to cope with online classes visit

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