Anna McDougall, George Orlov, Douglas McKee, 10 December 2020

Many higher learning institutions have shifted to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although research has found that online classes can be just as effective as in-person classes, there is evidence that suggests disadvantaged students may perform relatively worse. This column compares student performance on a set of standard assessments at four PhD-granting institutions in the US before and after the switch to online classes. It finds little evidence that disadvantaged groups were further disadvantaged by the pandemic in their college learning. Instructor experience with online teaching and the use of active-learning techniques have a positive effect on student outcomes.

Maria Paula Cacault, Christian Hildebrand, Jeremy Laurent-Lucchetti, Michele Pellizzari, 23 June 2019

Distance learning technologies are attracting attention as demand for higher education grows around the world, but credible evidence on their effects on students’ outcomes is scarce. This column studies the impact of online live streaming of lectures on student achievement and attendance in a experiment with first-year undergraduate students at the University of Geneva. It finds that students use the live streaming technology only when events make attending class too costly, and that attending lectures via live streaming lowers achievement for low-ability students but increases it for high-ability ones.

David Deming, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence Katz, Noam Yuchtman, 05 February 2015

With the potential to bring higher education to the masses, online learning has been hailed as revolutionary. The worry is that the quality of education will be diluted. This column presents evidence that online learning can bring substantial cost savings without much drop in quality – but employers do not value an online degree as highly, especially when coming from a private institution.

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