Dear Commons Community,
A small study of community college students entitled, “Choosing Between Online and Face-to-Face Courses: Community College Student Voices,” focuses on why students opt to take some courses online but others face to face. “Because they serve a lot of students who work and have kids, community colleges feel they need to offer more and more online courses to meet their demands,” said Shanna Smith Jaggars, the report’s author and the center’s assistant director. “But we looked at, What is the extent of that demand?”
The research uses data collected in interviews with 46 students at two unidentified community colleges in the United States.
The respondents were most likely to take online courses on topics they felt more comfortable “teaching themselves.” When a student considered a subject area “difficult”—many cited mathematics and science courses as examples—they were more likely to want a traditional brick-and-mortar setting because, the report says, “they needed the immediate question-and-answer context of a face-to-face course.”
In-person formats were also more popular for courses in a student’s major or in discussion-based areas where interactions with instructors or other peers were seen as important.
Those of us who have taught online have observed this in the past. As an instructor of online courses, I too prefer to teach certain courses online (i.e., education policy, contemporary issues in education) and other courses (i.e., quantitative research methods) face-to-face.