Well, a major study has formally analyzed and found out what a lot of us in online learning suspected or even thought we knew all along. This brand new study just released from the Department of Education is a comprehensive meta-analysis (that is, it is a comprehensive analysis of a large number of individual studies summarized analytically). The study started with 1,332 studies about online learning. They winnowed this set down to 46 rigorous studies that compared at least one element of online versus face-to-face learning, and from this group derived 51 effects.
Some of their key findings that I found most relevant are:
- For older (i.e. adult) learners, 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 learners in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning.
- Most of the variations 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.
- Effect sizes were larger for studies in which the online and face-to-face conditions varied in terms of curriculum materials and aspects of instructional approach in addition to the medium of instruction.
- 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 do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in an online class.
- Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learning reflection.
- Providing guidance for learning for groups of students appears less successful than does using such mechanisms with individual learners.
The authors provide these comments in the Conclusions section of their Executive Summary:
In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. Even when used by itself, online learning appears to offer a modest advantage over conventional classroom instruction.
However, several caveats are in order: 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. 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.
Read the full study. It is really fascinating and encouraging.
In a recent study at the State University of New York at Fredonia, researches looked at whether experiencing a live lecture in the classroom or viewing a recorded version of the same lecture made a difference in learning.
The result? Students who watched a video podcast scored on average a letter grade higher (71 percent vs. 62 percent) on an exam over the material.
Researchers noted that the mediating variables seemed to be the use of the pause and rewind buttons, multiple viewings of the recorded version, and whether the students were actively taking notes or not.
This is an interesting study report you should read at www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=57612.
The Sloan Consortium recently published a very important study of the growth of online learning. The comprehensive study was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and included a broad survey of 2,500 colleges and universities. Anyone remotely involved in online and distance learning should read it. Here are some key points:
Background: For the past several years, online enrollments have been growing substantially faster than overall higher education enrollments. The expectation of academic leaders has been that these enrollments would continue their substantial growth for at least another year. Do the measured enrollments match these lofty expectations?
The evidence: Online enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population, albeit at slower rates than for previous years.
- Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term; a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
- The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.5 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
- Nearly twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006.
You can (and should!) read and download the complete survey here: Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning | The Sloan Consortium .
Wow! How’s that for a thought-provoking title?
This is the title of an article every higher-education faculty member and administrator should read. It very well summarizes a driver of the paradigm shift that’s happening in the world related to education: “So much information, so little knowledge about what to do with it.”
The author is a former English professor and currently director of academic computing at MIT. Yes, MIT!
Here is the complete cite. You really should read it.
Trent Batson, “Is College Necessary in a Knowledge-Drenched World?,” Campus Technology, 9/17/2008, http://www.campustechnology.com/article.aspx?aid=67620
By the way, the answer to the question in the title of this blog post is, “Yes!”. But you’ll need to read the article to see why…
I recently attended the annual FUSION conference for users of the Desire2Learn learning management system. One of the gems I discovered is the Southern Regional Education Board. I picked up a really useful pamphlet entitled “Standards for Quality Online Courses.” It is a very succinct yet comprehensive framework for assessing online course quality.
You can download a .pdf version of the pamphlet at www.sreb.org
I encourage you to download and review it!
Today I participated in an online seminar abut the Access to Learning Project. A number of notable universities have banded together for this collaborative project, sponsored by Eduventures.
The project has produced a very professionally done multimedia web site that can be referenced to promote online learning to administrators, faculty, and prospective students, particularly to adult learners. You can order a free CD with that material from the web site.
I highly recommend you review this material, at www.accesstolearningproject.org.
I’ve discovered a couple of new approaches to preparing presentations. They are especially relevant to those of us who are deeply steeped in traditional bullet-point approaches using PowerPoint.
One approach and book that I’m really enjoying reading it Beyond Bullet Points, by Cliff Atkinson. Another is an online presentation titled Brain Rules: what all presenters should know, by Garr Reynolds. The second of these builds on a recent popular book entitled, Brain Rules: 12 Rules for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by molecular biologist John Medina.
Some companion web sites for these approaches are at beyondbulletpoints.com and brainrules.net. Be sure and watch the videos on the Brain Rules site!
Both approaches underscore the fact that we are all highly visual creatures, and that we normally can focus on only one or a very limited number of thoughts at any given time. They build on this understanding of how our minds work to create a fundamentally very different approach to presenting information. They emphasize engaging the listener/viewer with a cogent STORY rather than a blizzard of facts.
Interesting reading and discovery.
A recent article in Campus Technology provides some really good tips for creating high-quality, successful online courses. You should read the article to get all the fine points, but below are the 5 tips:
- Create a plan.
- Embrace “chunking.”
- Emphasize quality.
- Make it interesting!
- Keep it relevant.
Be sure and read the entire article at http://campustechnology.com/articles/61521_1/
In my conversations with colleagues about online education, the topics of cheating and academic integrity often come up. While these topics are also of concern in the traditional classroom, some may feel that online technologies may actually enable more widespread cheating.
Here is an interesting article from a Desire2Learn newsletter that discusses some ways to address such concerns.
In particular I found the discussion about creating contextual versus generic assignments very interesting. That is what I have been doing for quite some time — provide contextual assignments where students must study and interact with their own world and environment and report back on what they’ve discovered. Enjoy!