STOP PRESS – AN INVITATION
ONLINE DISTANCE EDUCATION
US study finds ‘blended’ learning
benefits compared to classroom
Even when used by itself, online learning appears to offer a modest advantage over conventional classroom instruction, according to the US Department of Education’s recently published
The study was based on a systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 which identified more than 1000 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.
Meta-analysis of the 51 screened results, mainly for undergraduate and older students, not elementary or secondary learners, found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction but did not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium.
The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes—measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation—was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face, they said.
Noting that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions, the analysts said, the finding suggested that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se.
But the fact that blended instruction had been more effective, provided a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches.
The key findings included:
- 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.
- Blended and purely online learning conditions implemented within a single study generally result in similar student learning outcomes.
- Elements such as video or online quizzes did not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes.
- Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection.
- Providing guidance for learning for groups of students appears less successful than does using such mechanisms with individual learners.
Full report PDF here.