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Online education has been growing at increasing rates. Online higher education students increased from 21.4% of students taking at least one online class in 2007, to 32.5% of students in 2012 (Kentnor, 2015). To date, there is no available research regarding differential resources relating to distance and traditional students in traditional university settings, however, logic dictates that online students may not receive the same resources as traditional students (e.g., in-person computer labs, counseling services, additional student support offices). Meaningful interactions with faculty and peers, honors societies, clubs, research and service-learning opportunities, academic and logistical support are not commonly available to online-only students to the same degree as traditional students. Given that distance-only students make up a differential demographic than traditional students, including higher rates of women, and those with families, higher rates veterans, higher rates of individuals with disabilities, higher rates of individuals from lower socio-economic classes, and higher rates of individuals who are more likely to work full-time, (Best Colleges, 2018; Ortagus, 2017; Seaman et al., 2018), these systematic differences in resources while in school might be promoting systems of inequality for those who are seeking educational opportunities. The present study aims to collect up-to-date information on student demographics, available resources, and goals of online and face-to-face undergraduate students. Online education has grown at a fast rate which means that the data on online education demographics needs to be re-assessed frequently. In addition, it is necessary to determine whether the logic follows: in the event that the demographics of distance students remain unchanged as accounting for underrepresented groups at a higher rate than traditional education, and it is found empirically true that distance students do have fewer resources but also similar goals, then it could be concluded that distance education may be a well-intended path to inequity.
Utah State University
Snow, Janice, "What's the Difference Between Undergraduate Online Students and Face-to-Face Students?" (2020). Fall Student Research Symposium 2020. 86.