A recent study issued by the United States Department of Education, titled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning found that “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
The study is a study of studies (meta-analysis), meaning they looked at many studies comparing online, face-to-face and blended learning and then drew conclusions. Of course it seems to come down to the fact that well design e-learning is good sound instruction.
Here is a portion of the abstract to the paper:
A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.
Here are some more of the findings:
- Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.
- Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.
- Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning.
- Most of the variations in the way in which different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly.
- The effectiveness of online learning approaches appears quite broad across different content and learner types. Online learning appeared to be an effective option for both undergraduates (mean effect of +0.35, p < .001) and for graduate students and professionals (+0.17, p < .05) in a wide range of academic and professional studies.
- Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes. The research does not support the use of some frequently recommended online learning practices. Inclusion of more media in an online application does not appear to enhance learning. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than other tactics such as assigning homework.
- Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection. Studies indicate that manipulations that trigger learner activity or learner reflection and self-monitoring of understanding are effective when students pursue online learning as individuals.
However, before online learning designers can open the champagne, a few caveats from the study:
As quoted from the study:
The studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium, In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. [Kapp's Note: Read "Instructional design was better in the online course."]
It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.
So it appears that the more time someone spends learning a topic and the better the DESIGN OF THE INSTRUCTION...the more learners learn...makes sense (elearning allows for the expansion of learning time which, I believe, is probably the difference in the amount of learning, not the medium itself and forces instructional design as opposed to the "winging-it" done in many classrooms.)
Students seem to spend more time actually learning or studying in online courses than in face-to-face according to this analysis of studies.
Another interesting and random-as it relates to this blog post-fact... "more than a million K–12 students took online courses in school year 2007–08." K-12 kids are taking online courses and a lot of them! This phenomenon is only going to grow.
Here is what the New York Times says in its article about the study: Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom
Thank you to Mark!! for the wonderful lead on the article.
What do you think?
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