A report on online learning

I’m frustrated! A couple of weeks ago I noticed Terry Anderson’s blog on the newly-released US Government report, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. Somewhat curious, I decided to take a squiz at it, but found that the link didn’t work.

Thinking that this was a temporary aberration, I left it a day or so and tried again – and again, an error message. With my frustration growing, I tried the underlying site, The US Department of Education Home Page – it still didn’t connect!

So I still haven’t read the report. However, I’m going to plough ahead and report on it anyway, as it seems to be ‘another small step’ and, in addition, someone might comment and inform me what’s going wrong with my connection (conspiracy theory 1: the US Government has cut off internet connection with Australia).

Terry noted one of the major conclusions:“The overall finding of the meta-analysis is that classes with online learning (whether taught completely online or blended) on average produce stronger student learning outcomes than do classes with solely face-to-face instruction. The mean effect size for all 51 contrasts was +0.24, p < .001.” His overall comments about the report included the following: “This study shows that the affordances of networked technology enhance student learning whether at a distance or on campus (blended). That really is no surprise, but should be useful ammunition when laggards and late adopters continue to press for ‘evidence that this stuff works’.”

Others have of course commented. Inside Higher Ed, after noting the finding that the uses of video and online quizzes do not seem effective, honed in on the following positive outcomes:

“Using technology to give students “control of their interactions” has a positive effect on student learning, however. “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,” the report says.

Notably, the report attributes much of the success in learning online (blended or entirely) not to technology but to time. “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 report says.”

This article is worth reading, not just for the comments from educational leaders (from Sloan, Educause, American Federation of Teachers, etc.) but for some of the plethora of responding comments. Some are surprisingly thoughtful/thought-provoking.

Perhaps I’ll leave the last word to the blogger on Virtual High School Meanderings, who concluded with the pithy statement that “this report is largely a waste of paper, money and human resources which could/should have been put to better use!!!”

So, read it yourself and come to your own conclusions, if you can!

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