Tuesday, June 30, 2009

1.4.2: No significant difference!

Many thanks to elearnspace for this link: A meta-analysis of comparative studies has concluded that, "on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction" (p.ix). Blended learning, with the additional work it tends to demand while combining face-to-face and online work, emerged as much better however here the influence may well be on the additional time students spend on learning tasks. Indeed, time on task and the use of different educational approaches emerged as two of the 'secrets' to the online experience.

The K-12 situation has not yet been adequately studied, so the meta-analysis draws on results from results noticed in medical training and higher education. The definition of 'online' applied is just that - Web-based instruction only.

Other findings:
  • Video and online quizzes in online courses do not seem to influence learning in online classes
  • Courses that emphasise reflection and student control of media enhance learning
  • Guidance for groups online is less successful than guiding individuals
The findings also emphasise that "the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. 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" (p.xvii).

There may well be concerns relating to completion; I am aware of some evidence (Dutton et al, 2002) that online learning students tend to get higher than average grades because only the best of them actually complete their courses (see also Angelino et al 2007). That retention rates are not typically reported on is a weakness of the various studies in this area (p.xvii). Further work on retention is neccessary before online advocates can break out the bubbly!

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