Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences, Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Maria Salazar

Second Advisor

Antonio Olmos

Third Advisor

Rashida Banerjee


Course outcomes, Distance learning, Hispanic-serving institution, Online learning, Propensity score analysis


As online course enrollments are increasing in higher education in the United States, it is increasingly important to understand student course outcomes in these classes, particularly at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), where there has been limited previous research. This current study examines online course outcomes in the form of student course grades and student withdrawal rates as compared to outcomes in face-to-face courses. The setting for the study is Russell University, a public university in the Rocky Mountain west, and an HSI. Data used in this study came from a large, deidentified data set of all enrollments in any course offered in both online and face-to-face formats during the 2017-2018 and 2019-2019 academic years.

Baseline results of this study indicate that students in online classes have significantly higher course grades, and non-significantly different withdrawal rates than do students in face-to-face classes. The study tests three different propensity score methods for validity and sensitivity to select a statistical method that is the best match for the data in controlling for 15 student covariates. The final statistical method chosen is a near-neighbor 1:2 propensity score analysis to control for these confounding covariates in order to balance the online and face-to-face enrollment groups. After balancing the groups using the near-neighbor 1:2 propensity score method, results indicate that there is a non-significant difference between online and face-to-face course enrollments in terms of student grades. However, after balancing, there is a significantly higher withdrawal rate among online students than face-to-face students. While promising, these results need additional confirmation from future research, as they remain highly sensitive to hidden bias from missing variables.

These results have important implications for students, faculty and administrators at an HSI to ensure equitable access to education in all course modalities. Online faculty should ensure that they intentionally build community in online classes and invite students to participate in high-impact practices such as research with their instructors. Administration should continue to provide faculty with collaborative instructional design support as they create effective online learning spaces. Finally, administration should provide access to personalized online student services such as advising and mental health resources to help students feel connected to the campus community.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Rebecca S. Cottrell


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

138 p.


Higher education, Education, Adult education