Student Outcomes in Online Courses: When Does Class Size Matter?


online education
higher education
class size
student outcomes
student grades
student DFW rates
upper-division courses
lower-division courses

How to Cite

Thomas, R., & Dello Stritto, M. E. (2021). Student Outcomes in Online Courses: When Does Class Size Matter?. The Northwest ELearning Journal, 1(1).


This quantitative study investigated the relationship between class size and student outcomes (final grades and DFW rates) in online higher education courses offered by a large, 4 year public institution in the United States. The following class size cut-off points were used: 8-15 vs. 16 or more students, 8-30 vs. 31 or more students, 8-40 vs. 41 or more students, and 8-50 vs. 51 or more students. Course level data included average final grades and DFW rates for 391 online undergraduate courses taught during the years 2017 and 2018. Significant results suggest that students earned higher grades in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) and upper-division courses when online courses included 30 or fewer students. This suggests that it may be beneficial to limit certain kinds of courses to 30 students or fewer, as 30 students may be a tipping point where the benefits of smaller online classes wear off.
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