Robert Ubell Asks:  Does Online Education Help Low-income Students Succeed?

Dear Commons Community,

Robert Ubell, a colleague from NYU, had an article recently focusing on the question:   Does Online Education Help Low-income Students Succeed?  Given that approximatley one-third of all colleges students take at least one fully online course a year, it is an important question for those of us in higher education to consider.   Many online students are low-income, working adults who cannot afford to attend college full-time because of financial, family and other obigations.

After reviewing the research on online education at community colleges, some of which raises alarms for fully online students, Ubell concludes that the blended (combining face-to-face and online instruction) model shows the most promise for helping all students including low-income and academically underprepared students to succeed.  He also makes several comments about the importance of appropriate student services (advisement, counseling, etc.) that sometimes get overlooked in the rush to implement online courses and programs.

His conclusion:

“If virtual education fails to succeed with poor students, then it will merely replicate the severe economic imbalance that is already the shame of the nation’s campuses. Online will merely emerge as yet another luxury product for America’s privileged students.

Better to fix online for underserved students by making sure instructional design is at its best, that online students make reasonable decisions about their course load, and that higher education recognizes its obligation to provide serious, high-touch services for its remote students.

Colleges need to remain as mindful for their online students—if not more supportive—than what it offers its residential students.”

Good advice!



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