Online Learners Out-paced those in Traditional Classrooms

Online Learning
LANSING , Mich., July 22, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire -- A recently released analysis of online learning "found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."

The United States Department of Education (USDOE) analysis, "Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning, A Meta-analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies" (July 2009), screened 99 studies from 1996 through July 2008 that included online or blended learning and face-to-face instruction, measured student outcomes, used a rigorous research design and provided adequate information.

Online learning was found to be more effective when "blended" with face-to-face instruction. The report said the difference was larger in those studies that contrasted blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with entirely face-to-face instruction. This finding supports the generally held view that teachers are a critical element in learning, whether it's in the classroom or online.

With the steady growth of online learning at all levels of education, this is the first comprehensive study that shows online learning to be more effective than face-to-face instruction. A recent survey estimated that more than a million K-12 students took online courses in the 2007-08 school year. Michigan was the first state to require all high school students to have an online learning experience in order to graduate. In the past decade, Michigan Virtual School(TM) has provided more than 64,000 online course enrollments to middle and high school students in Michigan.

"Today's education system is experiencing explosive growth with the use of online learning as an effective delivery model at all levels," Jamey Fitzpatrick, MVU president and CEO, said. "This latest study confirms that students, especially adult learners, can achieve as much or more in online learning environments as in traditional classrooms."

The USDOE report was limited to studying the effect of interactive web-based instruction, as opposed to video- and audio-based courses or stand-alone, computer-based courses. Web-based instruction, or online learning, utilizes e-textbooks, audio and video instruction, discussion boards, email contact with the instructor and various other devices to engage the student.

The USDOE researchers said their findings should not be generalized to the K-12 level, because most of the studies analyzed were conducted on adult populations. The meta-analysis was prepared by the Center for Technology in Education for the USDE.