The hed to a July 25, 2011 KPLU.org story states the matter rather unambiguously: "College students more likely to fail online." A recent study produced findings that strongly suggest "that students have a greater chance of not only bombing classes if they take them remotely but of dropping out completely."
The Columbia University researchers who conducted the study scrutinized the records over 51,000 postsecondary students in Washington state. These records revealed "that students who have face-to-face instruction are eight percent more likely to pass their classes" than their distance-learning counterparts, the KPLU.org story reports
Though this difference appears quite small, it make for rather outsized consequences, the most significant of which is dropping out of college, which online students do with greater frequency than their peers attending traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.
Yet there's also good news for online students. The Columbia University study also showed that they represent quite a unique bunch. Indeed, you could almost call them an elite bunch in that they tend to make more money, earn higher grades, and speak better English than brick-and-mortar university students.
The challenge thus becomes reducing the attrition rate among distance learners. Once this is accomplished they will be able to enjoy the full fruits of their advantages, regardless of whether they choose to study public health or video game design.