Economist: Hybrid learning benefits female students with high-income parents

The mental health of students deteriorated when universities shifted to distance learning during the pandemic. At the same time, women from affluent families benefited in terms of grades by partially being taught online, argues PhD student Adrian Mehic in a new SNS report.

SNS Research Brief 89. How Does Online Education Affect the Well-Being and Grades of Students 37.5 KB PDF

In order to reduce the spread of covid-19, Swedish colleges and universities switched completely to distance learning in the spring of 2020. At the beginning of the fall semester, they started mixing onsite and distance learning to exclusively return to distance learning in November. Based on this, Adrian Mehic compares the effects of distance and hybrid learning in the SNS report What Is the Effect of Online Learning on the Grades and Mental Health of Students?

“When following the affected students, we see clear patterns. For example, students rated their mental health higher at the beginning of the semester, when they received some onsite learning, than at the end, when they only received distance learning,” says Adrian Mehic, PhD student in economics at Lund University.

Mehic concludes that more distance learning at colleges and universities following the pandemic could also have a negative impact on the mental health of students. In addition, it also risks reducing the level of equality among students. On average, there is no statistically significant difference in student grades between the periods of total or partial distance learning. If, however, we study the results in more detail, one group stands out: female students with high-income parents performed better than other groups when teaching was conducted in a hybrid form.

These female students also performed better when the teaching occurred in a hybrid form than when all teaching occurred onsite. However, no corresponding correlation to parental income can be seen when it comes to male students engaged in hybrid learning. For women exclusively engaged in distance learning, the correlation was the reverse, meaning that higher parental incomes were associated with lower grades.

One explanation may be that female students with high-income parents have more open social networks. Hence, they may have been better than others when it came to using the few opportunities offered by hybrid learning to chat with other students, organize study sessions and the like.

“There are obviously also benefits related to hybrid forms, but the people planning teaching activities should be aware of the risks presented in my report,” says Adrian Mehic.

about the author

Adrian Mehic is a PhD student in economics at Lund University. He carries out research in the fields of econometrics, political economy and economic inequality.