Can Web Courses Replace the Classroom in Principles of Microeconomics

Byron Brown
Carl Liedholm


The proliferation of economics courses offered partly or completely online (Arnold Katz and William E. Becker, 1999) raises important questions about the effects of the new technologies on student learning. Do students enrolled in online courses learn more or less than students taught face-to-face? Can we identify any student characteristics, such as gender, race, ACT scores, or grade averages, that are associated with better outcomes in one technology or another? How would the online (or face-to-face) students fare if they had taken the course using the alternative technology? This paper addresses these questions using student data from our Principles of Microeconomics courses at Michigan State University.



The study analyzes examines performance of students in three different modes or technologies of instruction: live, hybrid and virtual. The results strongly suggest that the virtual course represents an inferior technology compared to the live sections. If students enrolled in the virtual course had enrolled in the live course their scores would have risen by 5.79 points. The results may reflect the benefits and importance of the direct student-teacher interactions that occur in live classes.

APA Citation

Brown, B. W., & Liedholm, C. E. (2002). Can web courses replace the classroom in principles of microeconomics?. American Economic Review, 92(2), 444-448.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Blended or Hybrid, Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication The American Economic Review
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Experiments
Intervention/Areas of Study Course design
Level of Analysis Course-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution, Not-for-profit, Public
Specific Course or Program Characteristics Social sciences, Large enrollment
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size 500 +
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