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Success Rates of Online versus Traditional College Students

Success Rates of Online versus Traditional College Students

“The starting point of all achievement is desire”. This quote by Napoleon Hill suggests
that for one to succeed, desire is a prerequisite. Well, no one can agree more. It is certainly the
desire of any student who enrolls in any college course, whether through online or traditional
studying, to eventually succeed. While there is a sharp increase in the recent past in online
college enrolment, traditional colleges seem to be the ultimate choice for most students. This can

perhaps be attributed to the perception that traditional colleges offer more direct and hands on
intellectual support to its students and that there is a higher likelihood of success in traditional
colleges.(Harrington, 1999) Various reasons would lead a student to select any of the two modes
of studying. A student may prefer online college because of reasons such as convenience,
flexibility, individual centered, cost effectiveness among many other myriads of benefits. In the
same vein, traditional colleges are preferred because of their ability to offer hands on experience,
practical demonstrations especially in science subjects and mathematics, greater support, and live
debates. The effectiveness and success rates between the two modes of learning have generated a
lot of debate and research in the modern time. Despite the convenience and flexibility of time
that online learning seems to offer, traditional college students remain significantly successful as
they register higher completion rates, lower dropout cases, and generally post higher grades than
their online counter parts (Wilson, & Allen, 2011).
In the research conducted by Wilson and Allen (2011), online students perform dismally
in terms of grades compared to the traditional students. Unlike online studying, traditional
learning is not limited to some specific subjects, they are more likely to finish their assignments
due to constant reminder even from colleagues and it is more suitable for practical subjects. The
rates of those withdrawing from studies are relatively fewer in traditional colleges leading to
higher numbers of those graduating at the end of college course. Research also shows that
traditional student obtain higher course grades than online students (Shea, & Bidjerano, 2014).
Online studying faces some draw backs that makes it less effective in delivery such as its
effectiveness being dependent mostly on some subjects. Practical subjects such as sciences and
mathematics are not effectively delivered by online learning. This is not to say that online
learning is without advantages. Students preferring online learning enjoy numerous benefits such

as being able to obtain immediate feed-back, their instructions are usually tailor-made and
individualized and the students are more engaged in the learning process. However, studying
online require a student to have a high degree of independence and self-motivation. The high rate
of success in traditional colleges is probably the reason for their prevalence even in the age of
technology where most individuals have internet connections even in their house.
While it may not be surprising that traditional college students tend to perform better than
the online students, it is clear that the success rate among online students is not dismal, and in
some occasion can be higher than the traditional college students’. This is because most online
students are usually self-driven, independent, focused and have greater need for achievement.
This is not surprising considering that majority of the student enrolling for online learning are
usually more mature than college students even in terms of age, since online learning is not
suitable for younger students because they may need constant supervision by adults (Shea, &
Bidjerano, 2014). In my opinion, therefore, I feel that it is not justifiable to conclude that
performance among students can vary significantly solely because of the two modes of delivery.
The two modes do not differ significantly and so it is more of a student’s ability, determination
and hard work, regardless of the mode of learning preferred that determines course grade success
among students (Shea, & Bidjerano, 2014).
To apply this topic as an online student, I will incorporate what I have learnt from the
article to my academic life, increase my determination to succeed, and take advantage of the
more engaging nature and real-time feedback that online learning provides (Shea, & Bidjerano,
2014). What I have learnt also encourages me as an online student and motivates me to work
even harder since some research shows that in some instances, online students in fact perform
better than traditional college students on average. Having learnt that online learning provides

more time for student to focus on learning, I will also make a point of dedicating more time to
my studies and keep a good record of reminders for all my assignments, since online students
tend not to meet deadlines more often than not.
In conclusion, there is little significance in terms of differences in performance or success
rates among online and traditional students. Yes, traditional college students seem to have an
upper edge in terms of performance, but this is mostly in few science subjects. The rise in
enrolment in online colleges is partly due to advancement in modern technology and the
flexibility, convenience, and cost effectiveness advantages of online learning. Online learning
can have a personal touch as there is greater interaction between the student and the instructor.
Ultimately, the effort one puts in his studies, regardless of the mode used shall determine the
overall performance and success.


Shea, P., & Bidjerano, T. (2014). Does online learning impede degree completion? A national
study of community college students. Computers & Education, 75103-111.
Wilson, D., & Allen, D. (2011). Success rates of online versus traditional college students.
Research In Higher Education Journal, 141.

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