A Sociological Analysis of the Impact of Online Education on Community College Completion: A Case Study of Montgomery College in Maryland
Hernandez, Shinta Herwantoro
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Community college completion is a top priority throughout the U.S. and particularly in the State of Maryland where the College and Career Readiness and College Completion Act (CCRCCA) was passed in 2013. To increase college completion rates, many community colleges throughout the state have prioritized online education by incorporating it into their institutional strategic plans. In doing so, higher education institutions in the state strive to lower social problems associated with college dropout rates, such as limited job or career opportunities, lower earning potential, increased unemployment, greater food and housing insecurity, and decreased community bonds. With more students enrolled in online courses, especially in community colleges, it becomes urgent to understand who is benefitting from online learning and who continues to experience challenges. In an examination of online education at Montgomery College in Maryland, results from this dissertation show that the delivery of high quality online education can help increase college completion rates. While not statistically significant, the time to completion for online students is 1.154 years less than fully face-to-face (F2F) students. Yet, middle income students graduate faster than their high income counterparts, Computer Science and Technologies students graduate faster than General Studies students, and online Computer Science and Technologies students graduate faster than their fully F2F counterparts. On average, there was no significant difference in the average time to completion across five academic years for online and fully F2F students – 4.5 years. Also across this five academic year span, specific online groups – males, Blacks or African Americans, high income and low income students, and General Studies, Business, and Early Childhood Education Technology majors – experienced an average time to completion that was lower than that of their fully F2F counterparts. The average time to completion at Montgomery College for online students exceeds that of fully F2F students after six online courses. However, for some online student groups – males, Blacks or African Americans, low income students, and Business majors – their time to completion is negatively impacted after 13 and 14 online courses, respectively. The research also suggests that the global COVID-19 pandemic has already positively influenced the way online education is delivered, the way instructors are trained, and the way students are engaged and learning at Montgomery College.