Important Studies on Online Learning

Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010

The Sloan Consortium’s annual report on the status of online educationImage of the cover for the 2010 Sloan-C report on Online Education in the United States in the United States shows:

  • Online enrollments at US colleges and universities grew by nearly one million
  • Nearly 30% of all college students in the US are taking at least one online class (53.8% at UIS)
  • More than 75% of leaders of public universities believe that online learning is as good as or better than face to face (55% of private college/university leaders believe the same)
  • Read the complete 2010 report.

Managing Online Education Survey, 2010

The Managing Online Education Survey from the Campus ComputingWCET/Campus Computing Project Survey Project and WCET highlights:

  • Imprediments to online program development and growth

Even as institutions commit to faculty training, the 2010 MOE survey data reveal significant faculty resistance to online education. Almost three-fourths (73 pct.) of the survey participants agree or strongly agree that “faculty resistance to teaching online courses” impedes institutional efforts to expand online education programs.  Three-fifths (61 percent) also cite the “lack of key resources (training instructors support personnel)” as a factor affecting program expansion, while just over half (56 percent) acknowledge that institutional budget cuts also impede program development and growth.

  • Significant restructuring of the management of online education

More than two-fifths (44 percent) of the survey respondents report that their campus has “reorganized the management of online education” in the past two years, while three-fifths (59 percent) expect to reorganize online education in the next two years. And almost a third (31 percent) report that their institution has reorganized the management of online education in the past two years and anticipate doing it again in the next two years. Survey participants cite budget issues (52 percent) and campus efforts to coordinate instructional resources (39 percent) as major factors contributing to the reorganization of online education at their institutions.

NSSE 2008 – The National Survey of Student Engagement

In their 2008 study, NSSE included a focus on engagement in online classes. Pages 15 and 16 of this study report on their findings in this area, including several revealing charts.

An excerpt:

“Other key findings from the 2008 survey are: Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities…. When courses provided extensive, intellectually challenging writing activities, students engaged in more deep learning activities such as analysis, synthesis, and integration of ideas from various sources, and they grappled more with course ideas both in and out of the classroom. These students also reported greater personal, social, practical, and academic learning and development. McCormick says the findings for online learners are intriguing. “Critics of distance education assume that face to face classes have inherent advantages as learning environments. But these results indicate that those who teach classes online may be making special efforts to engage their students. It may also be the case that online classes appeal to students who are more academically motivated and self-directed.”

US Department of Education – Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies

This rigorous and exhaustive meta-study of more than 1,000 recent studies of online learning led to a 93-page report released in July.

An excerpt:

“A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified 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. Key findings include:

  • 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, with an average effect size of +0.24 favoring online conditions. The mean difference between online and face-to-face conditions across the 51 contrasts is statistically significant at the p < .01 level.
  • Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction. The mean effect size in studies comparing blended with face-to-face instruction was +0.35, p < .001. This effect size is larger than that for studies comparing purely online and purely face-to-face conditions, which had an average effect size of +0.14, p < .05.”

NSSE 2009 – The National Survey of Student Engagement

The 2009 study included a survey of the impact of course management systems and interactive Web 2.0 technologies in student engagement. Pages 19 and 20 of this study report on their findings in this area.

An excerpt:

“Course management and interactive technologies were positively related to student engagement, self-reported learning outcomes, and deep approaches to learning. Course management technology was most strongly related to student-faculty interaction and self-reported gains in personal and social development. It is possible that the use of this type of organizational technology encourages contact among classmates as well as between students and their instructors. Interactive technologies corresponded most strongly with students’ self-reported gains and the supportive campus environment benchmark. Students who use interactive technologies are also more likely to say their campus environment is supportive and contributes to their knowledge, skills, and personal development.”