ED: Blended learning helps boost achievement

The report also said its meta-analysis differed from recent meta-analysis of distance learning in that it limited the search to studies of web-based instruction (a limitation that eliminated studies of video and audio-based telecourses or stand-alone, computer-based instruction), included only studies with random-assignment or controlled quasi-experimental designs, and examined effects only for objective measures of student learning (discarding effects observed from student or teacher perceptions of learning or course quality).

Researchers also distinguished entirely online learning from blended, or hybrid, learning–online combined with face-to-face instruction–because while entirely online learning is “attractive” on the basis of cost savings and convenience, blended learning “needs to be more effective than conventional face-to-face instruction to justify the additional time and costs it entails,” according to the report.

While 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 alone, instruction combining both online and face-to-face elements “had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction,” the report says.

The meta-analysis also found that most of the variations in how different studies implemented online learning did not affect student learning outcomes significantly–and the effectiveness of online-learning approaches spanned several different content and learner types.

When researchers compared different online-learning practices, they found that elements such as video or online quizzes did not appear to influence the amount that students learned in online classes. But giving learners control of their interaction with media and prompting learner reflection did enhance online-learning outcomes.

Even though the meta-analysis concluded that blended and online learning can help increase student achievement, researchers stopped short of attributing this higher achievement to the medium itself.

Meris Stansbury

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