Face-to-face versus online tuition: Preference, performance and pass rates in white and ethnic minority students


  • John T. E. Richardson is the Professor of Student Learning and Assessment in the Institute of Educational Technology at the UK Open University. His research interests are concerned with the experiences, the approaches to studying and the academic attainment of students in both campus-based and distance education.

John T. E. Richardson, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. Email: J.T.E.Richardson@open.ac.uk


Attainment in higher education tends to be poorer in ethnic minority students than in white students. This study examined whether this attainment gap was affected by the introduction of online tuition. Data were obtained from students who had taken courses in either arts or management with the UK Open University and had opted for either face-to-face or online tuition. The arts courses had a higher proportion of white students and lower proportions of Asian and black students than the management courses. Nevertheless, white and ethnic minority students gave similar reasons for choosing face-to-face tuition or online tuition. In the management courses but not in the arts courses, the pass rate was lower in students who had received online tuition than in students who had received face-to-face tuition. Regardless of the discipline or mode of tuition, black students tended to obtain lower marks and lower pass rate than white students, but Asian students did not. It is concluded that online tuition is an appropriate form of student support in both campus-based and distance education but that the attainment gap in ethnic minority students probably does not arise from the nature and quality of their interactions with teachers and other students.