In continually expanding the supply of online course sections (and potentially curtailing face-to-face offerings), college administrators believe they are serving the needs and demands of their students. Yet researchers have neglected to ask students whether the continued provision of face-to-face courses is important to them.
This article discusses community college students’ experiences with online and face-to-face learning, as well as their reasons for selecting online versus face-to-face sections of specific courses. Students reported that online courses had lower levels of instructor presence and that they thus needed to “teach themselves” in these courses. Accordingly, most students preferred to take only “easy” academic subjects online; they preferred to take “difficult” or “important” subjects face-to-face. The results of this research suggest that colleges need to take care to avoid curtailing the availability of face-to-face course sections, particularly in academically challenging or advanced areas of study.
This article appears in The American Journal of Distance Education, vol. 28, no. 1.