The Impact of Demographic Characteristics on Academic Performance: Face-to-Face Learning Versus Distance Learning Implemented to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Keywords: demographic characteristics, academic performance, face-to-face learning, distance learning, Coronavirus, COVID-19


The spread of COVID-19 presents an opportunity for many educational institutions to implement distance learning and ensure the provision of educational resources and services, secure income and revenues, and contribute to the control and prevention of the coronavirus. This study was conducted to investigate the impact of demographic characteristics on academic performance. Students’ grades and grade point averages (GPA) were collected from the Admission and Registration Unit, Al Ain University in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. The data were used to measure academic performance in face-to-face (F2F) learning and distance learning (DL) implemented by the university to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Statistical analysis including the Mann-Whitney test, Spearman’s rho test, and a regression test were used to answer research questions and verify hypotheses. Students demonstrated better academic performance in DL than F2F learning. It was found that the number of weak students in F2F learning dropped sharply by more than 11% in DL. Demographic characteristics demonstrated a significant impact on students’ academic performance and predicted at least 7.4% variation in F2F learning and DL. Findings of the study support the model developed by Tinto (1975) which proposed the impact of student’s attributes, experiences, and family backgrounds on academic performance. The findings suggest non-DL institutions should continue offering DL side-by-side with F2F learning programs.

Author Biographies

Prof. Ghaleb A. El Refae, Al Ain University

Business Administration Department,

College of Business,

Al Ain University, Al Ain,

United Arab Emirates

Dr. Abdoulaye Kaba, Al Ain University

Assistant Professor,

College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences,

Al Ain University,

Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Dr. Shorouq Eletter, Al Ain University

 Assistant Professor

College of Business,  Al Ain University,

Al Ain, UAE


Alghamdi, A., Karpinski, A. C., Lepp, A., & Barkley, J. (2020). Online and face-to-face classroom multitasking and academic performance: Moderated mediation with self-efficacy for self-regulated learning and gender. Computers in Human Behavior, 102, 214-222.

Al-Mously, N., Salem, R., & Al-Hamdan, N. (2013). The impact of gender and English language on the academic performance of students: An experience from new Saudi medical school. Journal of Contemporary Medical Education, 1(3), 170-176.

Amparo, A. R., Smith, G., & Friedman, A. (2018). Gender and persistent grade performance differences between online and face to face undergraduate classes. In T. Bastiaens, J. Van Braak, M. Brown, L. Cantoni, M. Castro, R. Christensen, G. Davidson-Shivers, K. DePryck, M. Ebner, M. Fominykh, C. Fulford, S. Hatzipanagos, G. Knezek, K. Kreijns, G. Marks, E. Sointu, E. Korsgaard Sorensen, J. Viteli, J. Voogt … O. Zawacki-Richter (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (Vol. 2018, pp. 1935-1939). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Amro, H. J., Mundy, M.-A., & Kupczynski, L. (2015). The effects of age and gender on student achievement in face-to-face and online college algebra classes. Research in Higher Education Journal, 27, 1-22.

Andreou, E., Vlachos, F., & Andreou, G. (2007). Educational research approaches to studying among Greek university students: The impact of gender, age, academic discipline and handedness. Educational Research, 48(3), 301-311.

Arora, N., & Singh, N. (2017). Factors affecting the academic performance of college students. I-Manager’s Journal of Educational Technology, 14(1), 47-53.

Ati, M., & Guessoum, N. (2010). E-learning in the United Arab Emirates. In U. Demiray (Ed.), E-learning practices. Cases on challenges facing e-learning and national development: Institutional studies and practices (Vol. 2, pp. 1009-1028). Anadolu University.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., Wallet, P. A., Fiset, M., & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 379-439.

Brubacher, M. R., & Silinda, F. T. (2019). Enjoyment and not competence predicts academic persistence for distance education students. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(3), 165-179.

Cheawjindakarn, B., Suwannatthachote, P., & Theeraroungchaisri, A. (2012). Critical success factors for online distance learning in higher education: A review of the literature. Creative Education, 03(8B), 61-66.

Cheng, F.-F., Chiu, C.-C., Wu, C.-S., & Tsaih, D.-C. (2017). The influence of learning style on satisfaction and learning effectiveness in the asynchronous web-based learning system. Library Hi Tech, 35(4), 473-489.

Chirumamilla, A., Sindre, G., & Nguyen-Duc, A. (2020). Cheating in e-exams and paper exams: The perceptions of engineering students and teachers in Norway. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 45(7), 940-957.

Christmann, E. P. (2017). A comparison of the achievement of statistics students enrolled in online and face-to-face settings. E-Learning and Digital Media, 14(6), 323-330.

D’Abundo, M. L., & Sidman, C. (2018). Integrating web-based technologies into the education and training of health professionals. In M. Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of information science and technology (4th ed., pp. 5820-5828). IGI Global.

Duffy, T., Gilbert, I., Kennedy, D., & Kwong, P. W. (2002). Comparing distance education and conventional education: Observations from a comparative study of post-registration nurses. Research in Learning Technology, 10(1), 70-82.

Elfaki, N. K., Abdulraheem, I., & Abdulrahim, R. (2019). Impact of e-learning vs traditional learning on students performance and attitude. International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences, 8(10), 76-82.

Fadda, A. (2019). The relationship between self-regulations and online learning in an ESL blended learning context. English Language Teaching, 12(6), 87-93.

Ferguson, J., & Tryjankowski, A. M. (2009). Online versus face-to-face learning: Looking at modes of instruction in master’s-level courses. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33(3), 219-228.

Haddad, M. E. O., Ferreira, N. S. C., & Faria, A. A. (2014). The use of educational technologies in distance education: Enabling the appropriation of teaching and learning process. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2(1), 54-58.

Halpern, D. F., Benbow, C. P., Geary, D. C., Gur, R. C., Hyde, J. S., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (2007). The science of sex differences in science and mathematics. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 8(1), 1-51.

Hassanbeigi, A., Askari, J., Nakhjavani, M., Shirkhoda, S., Barzegar, K., Mozayyan, M. R., & Fallahzadeh, H. (2011). The relationship between study skills and academic performance of university students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1416-1424.

Hedges, L. V., & Friedman, L. (1993). Gender differences in variability in intellectual abilities: A reanalysis of Feingold’s results. Review of Educational Research, 63(1), 94.

Ibrahim, M., Rwegasira, K. S. P., & Taher, A. (2007). Institutional factors affecting students’ intentions to withdraw from distance learning programs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the case of the Arab Open University (AOU). Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 10(1), 1-19.

Ismail, A. O. A., Mahmood, A. K., & Abdelmaboud, A. (2018). Factors influencing academic performance of students in blended and traditional domains. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 13(2), 170-187.

Jahng, N., Krug, D., & Zhang, Z. (2007). Student achievement in online distance education compared to face-to-face education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 10(1), 1-16.

Jocoy, C., & DiBiase, D. (2006). Plagiarism by adult learners online: A case study in detection and remediation. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 7(1), 1-16.

Kamalluarifin, W.S.F.W., Aniza, F.N.F.M., Jayabalan, H., Saufi, M.L.H.M., Bakar, N.A.A., & Karib, S.H.F. (2018). Blended learning: Satisfaction among accounting students in UNITEN KSHAS. Global Business & Management Research, 10(3), 547-557.

Koutsoupidou, T. (2014). Online distance learning and music training: Benefits, drawbacks and challenges. Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 29(3), 243-255.

Lavine, J., & Croome, R. (2018). United Arab Emirates.I In A.S. Weber & S. Hamlaoui (Eds.), E-learning in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region (pp. 433-450). Springer.

Logan, J. W., Lundberg, O. H., Roth, L., & Walsh, K. R. (2017). The effect of individual motivation and cognitive ability on student performance outcomes in a distance education environment. Journal of Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 83-91.

Lucky, A., Branham, M., & Atchison, R. (2019). Collection-based education by distance and face to face: Learning outcomes and academic dishonesty. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 28, 414-428.

Michael, T.B., & Williams, M.A. (2013). Student equity: Discouraging cheating in online courses. Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research, 3(2), 30-41.

Natarajan, M. (2005). Innovative teaching techniques in physical education. Communication of the IIMA, 5(4), 73-80.

Nortvig, A.-M., Petersen, A. K., & Balle, S. H. (2018). A literature review of the factors influencing e-learning and blended learning in relation to learning outcome, student satisfaction and engagement. The Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 16(1), 46-55.

Ortega-Maldonado, A., Llorens, S., Acosta, H., & Coo, C. (2017). Face-to-face vs on-line: An analysis of profile, learning, performance and satisfaction among post graduate students. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 5(10), 1701-1706.

Paul, J., & Jefferson, F. (2019). A comparative analysis of student performance in an online vs. face-to-face environmental science course from 2009 to 2016. Frontiers in Computer Science, 1(article 7), 1-9.

Rajadurai, J., Alias, N., Jaaffar, A. H., & Hanafi, W. N. W. (2018). Learners’ satisfaction and academic performance in open and distance learning (ODL) universities in Malaysia. Global Business and Management Research, 10(3), 511-523.

Shachar, M., & Neumann, Y. (2010). Twenty years of research on the academic performance differences between traditional and distance learning: Summative meta-analysis and trend. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 318-334.

Smith, N. V. (2013). Face-to-face vs. blended learning: Effects on secondary students’ perceptions and performance. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 89, 79-83.

Stark, E. (2019). Examining the role of motivation and learning strategies in the success of online versus face-to-face students. Online Learning Journal, 23(3), 234-251.

Stegers‐Jager, K. M., Savas, M., van der Waal, J., van Rossum, E. F. C., & Woltman, A. M. (2020). Gender‐specific effects of raising Year‐1 standards on medical students’ academic performance and stress levels. Medical Education, 54(6), 538-546.

Tamim, R. M., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. C., & Schmid, R. F. (2011). What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: A second-order meta-analysis and validation study. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 4-28.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 89-125.

United Arab Emirates, the Ministry of Education (2020, March 4). Education ministry announces early 4-week spring vacation, starting Sunday [Press release].

United Arab Emirates’ Government Portal. (2020, August 25). School break amid COVID-19.

Urtel, M. G. (2008). Assessing academic performance between traditional and distance education course formats. Educational Technology and Society, 11(1), 322-330.

Zhao, L., & Abuizam, R. (2015). The impact of adaptive learning in an introductory management distance education course: An empirical comparison. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 19(3), 359.

How to Cite
Ghaleb A. El Refae, G., Kaba, A., & Eletter , S. (2021). The Impact of Demographic Characteristics on Academic Performance: Face-to-Face Learning Versus Distance Learning Implemented to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(1), 91-110.
Research Articles