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Title: Reassessing Disparities in Online Learner Student Engagement in Higher Education
Authors: Paulsen, Justin
.McCormick, Alexander C
Keywords: higher education
online learning
Issue Date: Jan-2020
Series/Report no.: Educational Researcher;Vol 49, Issue 1, 2020
Abstract: line learning is the fastest growing segment in U.S. higher education and is increasingly adopted in public and private not-for-profit institutions. While the impact of online learning on educational outcomes is becoming more clear, the literature on its connection with student engagement is sparse. Student engagement measures identify key aspects of the learning process that can improve learning and outcomes like retention and achievement. The few studies investigating the link between online learning and student engagement found positive benefits for online learners compared to face-toface learners in terms of perceived academic challenge, learning gains, satisfaction, and better study habits. On the other hand, face-to-face learners reported higher levels of environment support, collaborative learning, and faculty interaction. However, these studies did not effectively account for the differences in background characteristics like age, time spent working or caring for dependents, and enrollment status. Further, they did not consider the increasingly large population of students who enroll in both online and face-to-face courses. In our study, we used propensity score matching on the 2015 National Survey of Student Engagement data to account for the disparities in these groups’ demographics variables. After matching, we found that some of the previous literature’s differences diminish or disappear entirely. This suggests differences in supportive environments and learning strategies have more to do with online student characteristics than learning mode. However, online learning still falls well below other modes in terms of collaborative learning and interaction with faculty.
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