Published on 2012/05/25

New Evidence Suggests Online Learning Is At Least As Effective As In-Class

The Brookings Institution recently completed a study to determine whether online learning was truly detrimental to higher learning, as many of eLearning’s critics loudly proclaim.

While they accept that poorly designed online instruction, such as posting videos of mediocre lectures on out-of-date websites, are inferior to the traditional model of education, the study focused on the potential for newer, more interactive online learning systems.

To conduct the study, students taking introductory statistics at six public universities were randomly assigned to take either a hybrid format of the class or a traditional, face-to-face class. In the hybrid model, students accompanied machine-guided instruction with one hour of face-to-face instruction per week..

The study determined that students taking the online class performed as well as their traditional counterparts across metrics including pass rates, final exam scores and performance on standardized tests.

First, this suggests that modern formats of online learning are not (as critics suggest) a detriment to learning. Secondly, it suggests that higher education institutions could adopt more online models as a lower-cost alternative for teaching and learning as the quality of education does not change across formats. It also has the potential to greatly expand access to higher education for students unable to physically attend a class or who do not have the funds or desire to attend a traditional campus.

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