#H809 Richardson Paper: Face-to-Face versus Online Tuition

The paper from Richardson (2012) investigates whether the persistent attainment gap in higher education is affected by the tuition mode. Arguments can be made that online tuition both widens and narrows the gap.  The paper looks to answer 1/ whether ethicity affects the choice for face-to-face vs. online tuition, and 2/ whether ethnicity patterns were different in both tuition modes.

I’ve summarized the main elements of the paper in the scheme below.  I wasn’t impressed with the findings.  The main limitations seemed to be the narrow sample and the sole focus on ethnicity which, in my opinion, is not an explaining variable for student performance, but rather a proxy for other socio-economic and cultural variables.  These should be explored in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of this attainment gap.

Schematic representation of Richardson (2012) paper

Schematic representation of Richardson (2012) paper


– sample limited to 1 university and 2 courses

– two modules yield different outcomes (possibly due to variance in online tuition quality)


– self-selected sample: are characteristics of learners choosing online/ f2f tuition mode identical?

– ethnicity proxy variable for other factors affecting attainment (internet access, job situation, family status, geographical factors)


– little insight in reasons why learners choose particular mode of tuition.

– unclear how learners themselves assess the quality of tuition.


Richardson, J.T.E. (2012) ‘Face-to-face versus online tuition: Preference, performance and pass rates in white and ethnic minority students’, British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), pp. 17–27.



This entry was posted in H809.

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