I linked earlier today to a story in the New York Times about a recent report that found a group of students did "noticeably worse" in online classes than their in-classroom counterparts.
According to the report, 312 university undergrads were divided into two groups: one online and one in classroom lectures.
From the article:
Hispanic students online fell nearly a full grade lower than Hispanic students that took the course in class. Male students did about a half-grade worse online, as did low-achievers, which had college grade-point averages below the mean for the university.
The co-author of the paper, David Figlio, theorizes a few possibilities: that the lure and distractions of the Internet were too hard to push away for online students, who "put off viewing the lectures and cram just before the test, a tactic unlikely to produce the best possible results." Also, he took into account that Hispanic students for whom English is not the first language might have needed to see the body language of the professors in order to better understand the lectures, and missed out on the opportunity to meet with lecturers after class.