Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning (EdD)

Degree Level



Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders


Kevin Roessger

Committee Member

Michael Hevel

Second Committee Member

Michael Miller

Third Committee Member

Kenda Grover


College Algebra, Comparison, Face-to-Face, Final Grades, Online, Outcomes


As community colleges emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic there may be a tendency to rely on technology to facilitate more online coursework. Online education has been a fixture of higher education since the mid-1990s, but there’s always been a question as to whether it is effective as traditional, face-to-face coursework. This is especially important in College Algebra, already viewed as a barrier course for many students. If more students take College Algebra online, will the results be as good as students taking the course in a classroom? The purpose of this quantitative causal-comparative study is to identify the relationship between course modality and final grade percentage, after accounting for instructor and curriculum effects for college algebra courses taught both online and face-to-face. Previous research studied this question, but a consensus about the efficacy of online education was mixed. Some studies found that online students perform worse than face-to-face students in college algebra (Amro, 2014; Amro et al., 2015; Driscoll, 2012). Other studies found no difference between the modalities (Araeipour, 2013; Harrington et al., 2016; Huang, 2016). Research by Burch and Kuo (2010) and Graham and Lazari (2018) discovered online students perform better than face-to-face students. This study considered the question through the lens of Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance, which examines the distance between the learner and instructor, course content, interface, and other learners as a psychological distance rather than a spatial distance. Using one instructor teaching both online and face-to-face courses using the same materials was an attempt to keep transactional distance as a constant, mitigating instructor and curriculum effects that could impact a study comparing modalities. Previous research that accounted for the instructor and course materials found no significant difference in outcomes based on modality. This study looked at final grade percentages in College Algebra courses taught by one instructor with both online and face-to-face sections over the course of the 2017-2018 school year. Data were supplied by a two-year institution located in rural Arkansas. In addition to looking for the relationship between modality and final grade percentages, the study looked for relationships between gender and final grades, a student’s age and final grades, as well as an interaction between online students and their age or gender on final grade percentages. Findings indicated there was no significant relationship between the course modality and final grade percentages. Additionally, there was no relationship between gender or age and final grades based on modality. However, one significant relationship the study found was that when women took online algebra, they scored over 15 points lower than men taking online algebra. There was no interaction between a student’s age and taking an online college algebra course. Further research should expand on the notion of accounting for Transactional Distance while looking at the relationship between course modality and final grade percentages and expand the study to disciplines outside of college algebra. Finally, research should investigate whether the relationship changed after the COVID-19 pandemic altered perceptions and implementation of online courses.