There has been unprecedentedly large-scale amount of online learning or distant learning conducted every day during the COVID-19 outbreak, making people curious about the effectiveness of it. However, in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education had already conducted a meta-analysis of online learning studies. The report examined the effectiveness of online learning compared with face-to-face instruction and explored the practices and conditions that were associated with more effective online learning.
The meta-analysis screened 50 effect sizes that fulfilled its inclusion criteria, providing a contrast between online learning and face-to-face learning or blended learning and face-to-face learning. However, given there were only a few rigorous studies of K-12 students at that time, 43 out of the 50 effect sizes were drawn from research with older learners. In all, the results suggested that:
- Students in online conditions performed modestly better than students who learned the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.
- However, instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage than pure face-to-face instruction and online instruction. The advantage was relatively larger for purely face-to-face instruction than purely online instruction.
- Larger effect sizes were found in online instruction that was collaborative or instructor-directed than in those studies where online learners worked independently
The report also provided a narrative review, finding the majority of available studies at that time suggested that:
- Giving learners control of their interactions with media and promoting learner reflection can enhance online learning. When students individually pursue online learning, elements that trigger their activity, reflection, and self-monitoring of understanding are effective.
- Providing guidance for the individual learner is more successful than providing it for groups of students. Support mechanisms, such as guiding questions, can influence how a group of students interacts, but not the amount they learn.
- Videos or online quizzes do not appear to influence the amount that students learn in online classes. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than assigning homework.
The joint efforts and innovations of educators these days will further benefit the development of online learning in the future.
Source (Open Access): Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.