Research Pick of the Day #6

February 15th, 2010 by Maria Moriarty

Today’s pick is…

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning

This  is the report of  a  A Meta -Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. A Meta-analysis is described in the report as “… a technique for combining the results of multiple experiments or quasi-experiments to obtain a composite estimate of the size of the effect.” (p.xiii)

The study set out to look at how the effectiveness of online learning compares with that of face-to-face instruction, whether supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhances learning, what are the practices associated with effective online learning, and what are the conditions that influence the effectiveness of  online learning.

The researchers conducted a systematic search of research literature from 1996- 2008 and identified more than 100 studies of online leaner . Further analysis based on  the following criteria, studies that contrasted online to face-to-face instruction, measured student outcomes, used a rigorous research design and provided enough information to calculate the effect size resulted in 51 studies that could be subjected to meta-analysis.

The results indicate  online students performed on average better than their counterparts who took the same courses face-to-face ; courses that combined online and face-to face instruction had a larger advantage than online alone or face-to-face alone,  The researchers conclude that online learning is not superior as a medium the combination of elements, e.g. additional learning time, additional opportunities for collaboration and the availability of  additional materials  – and suggest that much more  research is needed on online learning, online learning for different types s of students and effectiveness of learning practices (p.51)

This study looked at online learning in higher education and was intended to inform planning in the K-12 sector in the U.S.  Nevertheless the findings are useful to adult education providers and provide a comprehensive review of the literature and a useful analysis of the possible effects and benefits of  combining online and face to face instruction in helping students to achieve their learning objectives.