Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Online instruction wins: It's about time

A new empirical study by the US Department of Education finds that education outcomes in online environments are superior to face-to-face instruction. And that a blend of the two seems to be best. The key reason seems to be that students spend more time studying when they are doing it online.

Inside Higher Ed:
Notably, the report attributes much of the success in learning online (blended or entirely) not to technology but to time. "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," the report says.

In noting caveats about the findings, the study returns to the issue of time.

"Despite what appears to be strong support for online learning applications, the studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium," the report says. "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. 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."

Interestingly, online quizzes had no effect: "The use of video or online quizzes -- frequently encouraged for online education -- 'does not appear to enhance learning,' the report says."

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