Research ArticleECONOMICS

Online education platforms scale college STEM instruction with equivalent learning outcomes at lower cost

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Science Advances  08 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 15, eaay5324
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay5324

Figures

Tables

  • Table 1 Characteristics of instructors.

    Characteristics of instructors.. Notes: (i) Only publications in journals indexed by Web of Science and Scopus were included; (ii) Russia has a two-level system of doctoral qualifications. The first level—Candidate of Sciences—is equivalent to PhD or similar degrees. The second level—Doctor of Sciences—is an additional qualification that allows obtaining an academic rank of full professor (similar to “Habilitation” in Germany and other European countries).

    CourseInstructorAcademic degreePlace of
    graduation
    Academic rankYears of teachingPublications
    EMInstructor A, onlinePhD (Habilitation)Elite universityProfessor4639
    Instructor B, onlinePhD (Habilitation)Elite universityAssociate professor2420
    Instructor A, U1PhDNon-elite universityAssociate professor17
    Instructor B, U1PhDNon-elite universityAssociate professor201
    Instructor A, U2PhDNon-elite universityAssociate professor351
    Instructor B, U2Non-elite universitySenior lecturer125
    CMTInstructor A, onlinePhDElite universityAssociate professor31
    Instructor B, onlinePhDElite universityAssociate professor43
    Instructor C, onlinePhDElite universityAssociate professor47
    Instructor D, onlinePhDElite universityAssociate professor51
    Instructor A, U3Non-elite universitySenior lecturer11
  • Table 2 Student level summary statistics in each condition.

    Student level summary statistics in each condition.. Note: GPA, grade point average.

    CovariateIn-person conditionBlended conditionOnline condition
    NMeansSDNMeansSDNMeansSD
    Female1010.320.471000.400.491240.270.44
    Age9718.900.909718.961.1411018.920.97
    Had online learning experience930.280.45940.220.42990.250.44
    Pretest score9631.3818.149632.1619.2611027.6118.24
    College entrance exam score, Russian9775.4312.089774.5812.5811174.4613.45
    College entrance exam score, math9658.7213.429759.9613.5711157.8713.89
    College entrance exam score, physics9654.879.559555.7611.3910953.9510.44
    Cumulative college GPA973.870.47973.860.501113.880.51
    Intrinsic motivation index (α = 0.73)803.791.57734.231.56934.281.44
    Extrinsic motivation index (α = 0.72)844.671.17854.861.181014.761.03
    Self-efficacy in learning index (α = 0.71)580.131.1564−0.020.9176−0.080.95
    Interaction with instructors index (α = 0.70)810.071.09840.111.0298−0.150.88
  • Table 3 Unadjusted and covariate-adjusted regression estimates for three outcome measures: final exam score, average assessment score, and self-reported student satisfaction.

    Note: SEs in parentheses.

    Outcome: Final exam scoreOutcome: Average assessment scoreOutcome: Student satisfaction
    1a. Unadjusted1b. Covariate-
    adjusted
    2a. Unadjusted2b. Covariate-
    adjusted
    3a. Unadjusted3b. Covariate-
    adjusted
    Condition = online0.589 (2.21)1.442 (2.28)7.22** (3.06)7.19** (2.85)−5.01** (2.54)−5.05* (2.69)
    Condition = blended−1.081 (2.31)−0.791 (2.35)1.28 (3.19)0.744 (2.92)−2.03 (2.69)−2.48 (2.71)
    Intercept52.089*** (2.26)53.074*** (2.41)70.74*** (3.05)74.436*** (2.92)64.12*** (2.55)63.02*** (2.67)
    University fixed effectTrueTrueTrueTrueTrueTrue
    Addl. covariatesFalseTrueFalseTrueFalseTrue
    R214.0%18.4%57.8%68.1%19.9%29.5%

    ***P < 0.01, **P < 0.05, and *P < 0.1

    • Table 4 Cost-savings summary statistics.

      Note: SD in parentheses.

      CourseOverall
      student
      enrollment,
      in-person
      per year
      Student
      enrollment
      per year per
      institution
      Average instructor
      compensation, per 1000
      students (USD)
      Cost of the
      online
      course per
      1000
      students
      (USD)*
      Savings on instructor
      compensation (%)
      Increase in student
      enrollment per year
      In-personBlendedBlended/
      in-person
      Online/
      in-person
      BlendedOnline
      EM29,992233 (225)23,670
      (12,170)
      19,130
      (6810)
      452019.2%80.9%10055457
      CMT72,516562 (475)19,270
      (7170)
      16,310
      (5630)
      403015.4%79.1%182510,865

      *Cost of the online course includes production, delivery, and proctoring

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