Community college teachers will tell you that online classes work best with students who are self-directed and more mature than the average recent high school grad. Ignoring the obvious fact that this is probably the case with all classes, we know at the very least that online education is here to stay.
Besides immaturity, one reason younger freshmen don't perform well in online courses may be their lack of real experience. Certainly most young folks have logged plenty of hours online, mainly due to social media and gaming activity. But they don't know the ropes when it comes to academic tasks that may not be fun or socially engaging for most individuals. Take, for instance, English composition or introductory mathematics—fun for some, not for most. Online games exist for such disciplines, of course, but the record so far is less than stellar in terms of overall student success.
Some states are now requiring at least one online course in K-12 education. One of the leaders in this field is Michigan. Here is a link regarding their program.
If all our freshmen showed up in college with some experience in an academically rigorous online course, it would seem to be helpful.
We used to be rightfully concerned about students with little or no access to technology. However, as you walk into class this week, take note of how many of your students from all backgrounds are staring and poking at their hand-held devices.We must be approaching universal access, at least for our more youthful students.
Our contemporary challenge is getting young people to put their devices aside, not take them up.