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Working Papers, No. 2022-52, November 2022 Crossref
The Expanding Landscape of Online Education: Who Engages and How They Fare

(Revised July 2023)

Online course offerings at traditional universities have become common, though some question if the modality can adequately substitute for an in-person experience. We explore undergraduate online course enrollment at a large public four-year system and the relationships between taking online courses and student outcomes. Online enrollment nearly doubled from 2012 to 2019 when almost 40 percent took at least one class online. Female students and older students were especially likely to take online classes. Overall students were both more likely to earn As and more likely to fail in online courses relative to in-person courses, but semester GPAs were higher in terms when students took at least one class online than when they took all in-person classes. Importantly, taking higher shares of courses online is associated with increased degree completion with the largest benefits for younger students and male students.

Working papers are not edited, and all opinions and errors are the responsibility of the author(s). The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.


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