Online courses have become very popular – and very controversial – for many reasons. In the fall of 2014 there were 5.8 million students taking online courses, with 2.85 million taking all of their courses online. Originally being offered by for-profit institutions, now a number of public colleges and universities are offering them under a number of premises, such as making higher education more accessible, the belief that offering on-line courses is cheaper than in person and that they provide an easier way to learn.
Yet, it has been the common wisdom that students consistently perform worse in an online setting than they do in face-to-face classrooms and that taking online courses increases their likelihood of dropping out and overall impedes their progress through col- lege. So has online education fulfilled its original promises?