Slover & Mandernach

Beyond Online Versus Face-to-Face Comparisons: The Interaction of Student Age and Mode of Instruction on Academic Achievement

Ed Slover, Grand Canyon University
Jean Mandernach, Grand Canyon University


While it is well-established that nontraditional students are more likely to take online courses than their traditional-age counterparts, investigations of the learning equivalence between online and campus-based instruction typically fail to consider student age as a mediating factor in the learning experience. To examine learning outcomes as a function of student age (traditional versus nontraditional) in relation to mode of instruction (online versus face-to-face), the current study examined cumulative outbound assessment scores of 1,276 students enrolled in an undergraduate business program. The results revealed that traditional-age students, regardless of whether they take courses on campus or online, performed similarly on the outbound Peregrine assessment; in contrast, there was a marked difference in the performance of nontraditional-age students as those learning online scored significantly higher than those taking classes on campus. Recognizing that nontraditional students who choose to take online courses (as compared to campus-based alternatives) likely do so because of practical factors associated with active work schedules, it is possible that active work experience contributed to increased learning gains. Strategies to allow online programs to utilize this information to better serve their students are discussed.

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