Elearning Market Update - August 2009

This month we look at a major new research study by the US Department of Education which concludes that, on average, students using elearning performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.

The report Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning - A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, is a study of the research over the last 12 years from 1996 to 2008.

The report is a major study into the effectiveness of blended and online learning compared to face to face instruction. The conclusion of the report is that in comparisons of “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.”

"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. Learning outcomes for students who engaged in online learning exceeded those of students receiving face-to-face instruction."

There is a mass of data within the 93 page report but they appear to confirm earlier studies of the benefits of e-learning, see this research in our previous article on the benefits of e-learning.

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist.

There are some core findings which should interest all of those involved in designing and developing e-learning. For example:

  • Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes. The research does not support the use of some frequently recommended online learning practices. Inclusion of more media in an online application does not appear to enhance learning. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than other tactics such as assigning homework.
  • Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection. Studies indicate that manipulations that trigger learner activity or learner reflection and self-monitoring of understanding are effective when students pursue online learning as individuals.
  • 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 market for elearning continues to grow, which we ourselves can see through increased demand for our elearning services. There has preiously been little argument about the cost and distribution benefits of elearning, this timely new report on its effectiveness may well increase the demand for blended and elearning solutions.

We will do a fuller analysis of the benefits of elearning in our next newsletter.