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Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning. A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies

Authors: U.S. Department of Education.

September 2010

The United States Department of Education Center for Technology in Learning performed a systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008, identifying more than a thousand 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. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis.

The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. 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. Analysts noted that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions, suggesting that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se.

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I have no financial interests related to this recommendation (GP)

Authors: U.S. Department of Education.

September 2010

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