Diagnosing differences in what Introductory Biology students in a fully online and an in-person biology degree program know and do regarding medical school admission

Katelyn M. Cooper, Logan E. Gin, Sara Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Increasingly, institutions of higher education are adopting fully online degree programs to provide students with cost-effective, accessible postsecondary education. A concern these degrees raise is: Will students be prepared for the next step of their career paths after completing their Bachelor's degree online? Biology undergraduates often begin their degrees wanting to become medical doctors, but no studies have explored whether students in a fully online biology degree program are being prepared to be admitted to medical school. In this study, we surveyed Introductory Biology students at one institution who were pursuing Bachelor of Science degrees in Biological Sciences, either in an online or an in-person program. The most prevalent career goal for both in-person students (65.2%) and online students (39.7%) was a medical doctor. Online students were more confident in their intentions to become doctors than their in-person peers. However, online students knew fewer criteria that medical schools consider when admitting students than in-person students [in-person: mean = 3.7 (SD 1.6); online: mean =2.7 (SD 1.7)] and were less likely to plan to become involved in premedical activities, such as undergraduate research. Finally, compared with in-person students, fewer online students were able to name at least one science student (in-person: 76.7%; online: 9.7%), academic advisor (in-person: 21.3%; online: 6.5%), and faculty member (in-person: 33.7%; online: 6.5%) with whom they could talk about pursuing a career in medicine. This work highlights knowledge gaps between students enrolled in a fully online biology degree and an in-person biology degree that are important for developers of online biology degree programs to understand and rectify to better prepare online biology students for admission to medical school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-232
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019



  • distance education
  • medical school
  • online biology degree
  • online education
  • premed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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