The U.S. Department of Education recently released the results of a Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. The analysis used existing studies to compare online learning to face-to-face instruction and found that students performed best in blended learning environments that incorporated both types of instruction. In addition, students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. The report says that the amount of time spent by online learners affected the results because online learners that spent more time on tasks than students in face-to-face learning environments found a greater benefit for online learning. The report notes, “In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.”
An article from Inside Higher Ed adds that these findings could be significant because many colleges are also reporting that enrollment in classes with blended learning instruction is on the rise. In a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education commented, “This new report reinforces that effective teachers need to incorporate digital content into everyday classes and consider open-source learning management systems, which have proven cost effective in school districts and colleges nationwide. We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to bring broadband access and online learning to more communities.” The findings from this report could lead to greater adoption of online tools for learning and continued proliferation of more blended approaches to course materials and education.