McLennan Community College students in the fall passed classes with an in-person element at a higher rate than online-only classes, and the gap between blended and online-only passing rates for Black men was even more pronounced, an in-house grade report found.
However, the study also found student performance had not dipped significantly from the previous fall, despite disruptions and changes in instruction brought on by the coronavirus. The numbers were presented to the MCC board at a recent meeting.
The grade distribution report for this past fall semester tallies 24,542 individual class grades as either passing, failing or a student withdrawal from the class, MCC director of institutional research Laura Wichman said. Overall, 72% of fall grades were passing, 16% were failing and 12% were withdrawals. For the fall of 2019, 73% of fall grades were passing, 14% were failing and 12% were withdrawals.
Heading into the semester, teachers and administrators worried broad instructional changes brought on by COVID-19 would lead to a dramatic hit to student performance, so the minimal change to the passing rate and the flat dropout rate represent some relief from those fears.
“It’s good news,” Vice President of Instruction Fred Hills said. “We were expecting to see a huge dropout number, see something really ugly.”
After finishing the spring semester last year online-only, the fall semester had a much higher number of blended classes, combining in-person and online instruction.
The grade report shows the passing rate for all blended classes was 7 percentage points higher than the rate for all online-only classes.
In all blended classes, 76% of grades were passing, 13% were failing and 11% were withdrawals. In all online-only classes, they were 69% passing, 18% failing and 14% withdrawn.
Class format, however, can be tied to the type of class content.
For the handful of in-person-only classes, primarily in Workforce Education sequences in Health Professions and Emergency Services where hands-on training or in-person observation are degree or certification requirements, grades were 95% passing, 2% failing and 3% withdrawals.
The greatest difference between blended and online-only grades shows up in a breakout of student gender and race. The rate of passing grades for Black men in blended classes was 19 percentage points higher than the rate for online-only classes.
Black men’s grades in blended classes were 66% passing and 18% failing. In online-only classes, they were 47% passing and 26% failing.
MCC administrators and faculty will consider the report’s findings as they plan upcoming semesters, Hills said. Summer classes will continue in primarily blended or online-only formats, but fall classes are expected to be about a third online, a third in-person and a third blended, Hills said. Lessons learned over the past year likely will continue to shape the mix of class formats moving forward.