online instruction, student achievement, instructional modality


The recent increase in online instruction caused by the 2020 pandemic has reignited the debate over the efficacy of online instruction compared to in-person instruction. This study explored the impact various modes of instruction had on student achievement and compared students’ stated modality preference with their actual attendance behavior. Results show that while most students preferred in-person instruction (74%), only 47% of those who indicated they preferred in-person instruction attended class only in-person. Many attended classes utilizing a modality other than in-person, and several students switched their preferred modality away from in-person instruction. In general, students who attended class using a mixed modality or in-person achieved slightly better results than those attending class live online. However, the only statistically significant difference was between those participating predominantly in person and those watching class recordings (88% compared to 84% on average). Overall, many students achieved high grades regardless of their chosen instructional modality. In addition, students reported appreciating the option of multiple modalities when they could not attend class in their preferred modality. These results suggest offering a choice of modalities benefited many students.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date





David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor


IPT 761