Lessons Learned from Online and Face-to-Face Courses

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The present field research examined the contribution of class attendance to freshmen’s performance in courses of the general education curriculum taught online or face-to-face. The motivation behind the study was to address concerns about the prevalence of passive attendance and its impact on learning in online courses. An objective examination of performance (as measured by pass/fail rates and actual grades) in selected general education courses was carried out as a function of the instructional medium (face-to-face versus synchronous online) across two consecutive academic years. Pass rates for both assignments and tests were lower online. Irrespective of the instructional medium, students who obtained passing grades on either assignments or tests attended classes more than those who obtained failing grades. The benefits of attendance were interpreted as a reflection of students knowing what is going on in class. The lack of familiarity with the online instructional medium and the physical distance it engendered were thought to make poor performers less capable of addressing the problems they face, thereby leading to higher failure rates. The results of this study were used to advise the management of online, hybrid, and blended learning in the post-pandemic world.