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The Chalkboard versus the Avatar: Comparing the Effectiveness of Online and In-class Courses


Teaching Sociology Volume 41, Number 3, ISSN 0092-055X


Increasingly, colleges and universities are relying on fully online classes to teach students. This article investigates how students evaluate online courses in comparison to more traditional face-to-face courses. Data come from undergraduate student evaluations of 118 sociology courses, and results of a series of hierarchical linear models indicate that students feel they have learned less in online courses, believe they are treated with more respect in in-class courses, and rate online courses less highly than in-class courses. Findings also suggest that the negative effects of teaching online are not universal for instructors, as the switch to online classes actually results in better evaluations for teachers who typically perform poorly in the classroom. These findings caution against the broad use of online sociology classes as a strategy for coping with increasing enrollments and shrinking budgets and suggest educators should select the course format that best complements their teaching strengths and skills. (Contains 2 tables and 5 notes.)


Bergstrand, K. & Savage, S.V. (2013). The Chalkboard versus the Avatar: Comparing the Effectiveness of Online and In-class Courses. Teaching Sociology, 41(3), 294-306. Retrieved May 27, 2020 from .

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