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Remote learning slightly lowered student performance in introductory undergraduate courses on climate change

Support for policies to address climate change depends on an educated public and an understanding of difficult scientific concepts. To forestall action on climate change, the U.S. government in 2017 removed hundreds of webpages about climate change from the websites of federal agencies and departments, and renamed “climate change” from thousands of other websites. Removed term. The censorship was reversed only four years after the new government took office. Also troubling is that during this period some of the authoritative sources became unsuitable for educational purposes. For example, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports have grown exponentially. Adaptation from page 296 in 1990 to page 3675 in 2021 and adaptation of Working Group III on mitigation from page 438 in 1995 to page 2913 in 2022 (Fig. S1). To address these issues, the National Science Foundation, as part of DUE 09-50396, “Creating Learning Communities for Solutions to Climate Change,” has launched a national research initiative to develop web-based curriculum resources. funded the establishment of a cyber-ready learning community. To teach undergraduates about climate change. One of the outcomes of this project was an interdisciplinary introductory online course available free of charge to the public.1.

The course was pushed into wider service as schools struggled to provide online materials during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher education institutions have been criticized for adopting such courses. This is largely based on the assumption that online instruction is inherently inferior to that offered face-to-face. The question is whether the convenience and safety of online education outweigh the potential for poorer learning outcomes for today’s undergraduates.

The pandemic has brought urgency to this issue, but it is nothing new. The effectiveness of distance learning has been debated since 1858, when the external programs of the University of London first offered distance learning courses.2but historically they have been perceived as inferior to on-campus education3,4.

Online learning opportunities have exploded with the advent of widespread internet access and the expansion of accredited university programs. In the United States alone, enrollment in online college courses increased from 1.6 million in 2002 to 6.9 million in 2018.5,6In 2018, 35.3% of US undergraduates took at least one online course, and half of these students took only online courses.6This boom in online offerings is co-evolving with active learning and EdTech, and today’s online courses, whether asynchronous or self-paced, tend to be highly interactive. In fact, proponents of instructional design often position today’s online courses on the spectrum of hybrid learning and flipped classrooms, rather than emphasizing a rise from didactic-style correspondence courses. Proponents of interactive online learning argue that well-designed online courses are as effective as face-to-face courses, and perhaps even more effective than traditional courses based on passive lecture presentations. I’m here.7,8,9,10.

Despite today’s new educational paradigm of online courses, familiar criticisms of online learning continue.FourDetractors cite high turnover rates as evidence that online courses make students more easily distracted, and argue that the quality of teaching experience and outcomes in online courses rivals that of similar face-to-face classes. In addition to criticism, many studies in higher education suggest that online courses, like their historical distance learning counterparts, tend to disproportionately enroll underserved students. I’m here. The proliferation of these courses may constitute an educational trap, exacerbating achievement gaps and providing barriers to sustainability and success.11,12.

The effectiveness of online and face-to-face courses appears ripe for evidence-based research, but high-quality quasi-trials comparing effectiveness remain elusive. For example, the U.S. Department of Education conducted his 2010 meta-analysis of 28 studies comparing online and face-to-face learning in postsecondary settings, concluding: Traditional classroom instruction, but nothing more. ”13However, a re-evaluation of this meta-analysis found that only four of these studies used appropriate experimental designs and only investigated one semester of college courses. On the other hand, in a fourth study, students of the two versions showed nearly identical results.14.

Recently, several large studies of U.S. college students have shown that student outcomes (both persistence to the end of the course and final grades) are significantly better for online courses than for face-to-face courses. turned out to be low.15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24However, these studies are based on comparing courses with different subjects, courses taught by different instructors, or courses with relatively few students. Because many of these studies are based on different courses, there is no opportunity to separate student admission decisions into simple choices between online and face-to-face versions, explaining the potential impact of underserved services. We were also unable to provide adequate analysis to The group’s preference for one form of her over the other.

Thus, quasi-experimental studies to date have also failed to explore key concerns underlying all comparisons between online and face-to-face courses. If course accessibility is enhanced, is the reduction in learning outcomes worth the attendant increase in accessibility? The COVID-19 pandemic has imbued these trade-offs with new urgency. Universities and students are faced with difficult decisions about how to optimize learning outcomes and ensure access to safe courses as free public life is disrupted.

This study seeks to analyze student selection, student outcomes, and trade-offs between online and face-to-face courses at a large research university through a post hoc quasi-experiment. 1790 undergraduate students at the University of California, Davis, a public research university, were enrolled in an introductory course on climate change, online or face-to-face, and their performance and attributes were analyzed (for the course syllabus). See Table 1). Each demographic group had more than 100 of her students enrolled in the online and face-to-face versions (Fig. 1). Each year, both versions of the course were taught by one of her instructors, so there could be variations in instructor bias, course design, content differences, and other aspects that can affect student choices and outcomes. We minimized major confounding variables. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we offered both versions of the course in eight winter quarters and only the online version in six spring quarters. For the winter and spring quarters of 2021, we were offering courses online only during the pandemic. Past experience and methods of online learning for two simultaneous courses in winter 2019 (one face-to-face and one online) and online courses due to the COVID-19 pandemic in winter 2021 and spring 2021 We surveyed students about These experiences influenced the choice between online and face-to-face versions of the course.

Table 1 Syllabus: Global Climate Change SAS 25 (face-to-face) and 25v (online).
Figure 1: Changes in the number (number) or percentage (%) of students with specific self-perceived traits enrolled in face-to-face (F2F) and online versions in the pre-pandemic winter semester of an undergraduate introductory course on climate .
Figure 1

“No. F2F” and “No. Online” are underrepresented minorities (URM) (African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Chican/Latino including Puerto Rican, Pacific Islander including Native Hawaiian), First generation college students (first generation), family income less than $80,000 per year (low income). Students in their final year of college (senior). Students majoring in humanities (humanities). “F2F %” and “Online %” are the percentage of students with the trait. Different letters above the bars indicate significantly different proportions of students with the trait (P.< 0.05) between the F2F version and the online version.

All elements of the course are free at, including free multimedia textbooks at Available. It will be updated regularly. From 2017 to 2021, online textbooks had 5,000 new users per year, each with an average of 3 or more views and 10 minutes per view. Prior to 2017, print versions of textbooks were available for purchase.twenty five.