Depression is a top mental health concern among college students, yet there is a lack of research exploring how online college science courses can exacerbate or alleviate their depression. We surveyed 2,175 undergraduates at a large research-intensive institution about the severity of their depression in large-enrollment online science courses. The survey also explored aspects of online science courses that exacerbate or alleviate depression and we used regression analyses to assess whether demographics predicted responses. Over 50% of undergraduates reported experiencing depression and LGBTQ+ students, financially unstable students, and lower division students were more likely to experience severe rather than mild depression compared to their counterparts. Students reported difficulty building relationships and struggling to perform well online as aspects of online science courses that exacerbated their depression and the flexible nature of online courses and caring instructors as aspects of online courses that alleviated their depression. This study provides insight into how instructors can create more inclusive online learning environments for students with depression.
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