U.S. Department of Education Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in

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Presentation of: Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies:

U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Program Development Policy and Program Studies Service Revised September 2012 Prepared by Barbara Means Yukie Toyama Robert Murphy Marianne Bakia Karla Jones Center for Technology in Learning Presentation of: Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies

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"How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction? Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning? What practices are associated with more effective online learning? What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?" (Department of Education [ED], 2010, p. xi) This evaluation was prepared for the U.S. Department of Education with the purpose of looking at the research literature for online learning as an alternative or enhancement to face-to-face learning in order to find answers to the following questions:

The research chosen to be analyzed had to follow the following criteria::

The research chosen to be analyzed had to follow the following criteria: "Investigated significant use of the Web for instruction Had an objective learning measure as the outcome measure Met higher quality criteria in terms of study design (i.e., an experimental or controlled quasi-experimental design)" (ED, 2010, p. 7)

Question 1: How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to face instruction?:

Question 1: How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to face instruction? "Looking only at the [...] effects that compared a purely online condition with face-to-face instruction, analysts found [...] that instruction conducted entirely online is as effective as classroom instruction but no better." (ED, 2012, p. 18) Implications: "A replacement application [e.g., a virtual course] that is equivalent to conventional instruction in terms of learning outcomes is considered a success if it provides learning online without sacrificing student achievement. If student outcomes are the same whether a course is taken online or face-to-face, then online instruction can be used cost-effectively in settings where too few students are situated in a particular geographic locale to warrant an on-site instructor (e.g., rural students, students in specialized courses)." (ED, 2010, p. 3)

Question 2: Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?:

Question 2: Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning? Review of the "contrasts that compared blended conditions of online plus face-to-face learning with face-to-face instruction alone, [showed that] [b]lends of online and face-to-face instruction, on average, had stronger learning outcomes than did face-to-face instruction alone." (ED, 2010, p. 19) Implications: "Effects were larger when a blended rather than a purely online condition was compared with face-to-face instruction; when students in the online condition were engaged in instructor-led or collaborative instruction rather than independent learning; and when the curricular materials and instruction varied between the online and face-to-face conditions. This pattern of significant moderator variables is consistent with the interpretation that the advantage of online conditions in these recent studies stems from aspects of the treatment conditions other than the use of the Internet for delivery per se." (ED, 2010, p. 51) This analysis "should not be construed as demonstrating that online learning is superior as a medium. Rather, it is the combination of elements in the treatment conditions, which are likely to include additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration, that has proven effective. The meta-analysis findings do not support simply putting an existing course online, but they do support redesigning instruction to incorporate additional learning opportunities online." (ED, 2010, p. 51)

Question 3: What practices are associated with more effective online learning?:

Question 3: What practices are associated with more effective online learning? It was found that "the use of blended rather than a purely online approach and instructor-directed or collaborative rather than independent, self-directed instruction [...] were the only statistically significant influences on effectiveness." (ED, 2010, p. xv) More time on task while learning online showed greater effectiveness than when "learners in the face-to-face condition spent as much time or more time on task." (ED, 2010, p. 28, 30) Note: The word "practices" as it is used here means: "how online learning is implemented (e.g., whether or not an online course facilitator is used). [...] "In deciding how to implement online learning, it is important to understand the practices that research suggests will increase effectiveness [...]." (ED, 2010, p. 2) Implications: "The research does not support the use of some frequently recommended online learning practices. Inclusion of more media in an online application does not appear to enhance learning. The practice of providing online quizzes does not seem to be more effective than other tactics such as assigning homework." (ED, 2010, p. xvi) "The practice with the strongest evidence of effectiveness is inclusion of mechanisms to prompt students to reflect on their level of understanding as they are learning online. In a related vein, there is some evidence that online learning environments with the capacity to individualize instruction to a learner's specific needs improves effectiveness." (ED, 2010, p. 52)

Question 4: What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?:

Question 4: What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning? "[...] the effectiveness of online learning was equivalent in older and newer studies, with undergraduate and older learners, and in both medical and other subject areas." (ED, 2010, p. 30) Note: The word "conditions" as it is used here means: "those features of the context within which the online technology is implemented that are relatively impervious to change. Conditions include the year in which the intervention took place, the learners' demographic characteristics, the teacher's or instructor's qualifications, and state accountability systems." [...] "In choosing whether or where to use online learning (e.g., to teach mathematics for high school students, to teach a second language to elementary students), it is important to understand the degree of effectiveness of online learning under differing conditions." (ED, 2010, p. 2) "Though positive, the mean effect size is not significant for the [studies] involving K-12 students, but the number of K-12 studies is too small to warrant much confidence in the mean effect estimate for this learner group." (ED, 2010, p. xv) Implications: "[...] blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches." (ED, 2010, p. xviii) "[...] various online learning implementation practices may have differing effectiveness for K-12 learners than they do for older students. It is certainly possible the younger online students could benefit from practices (such as embedding feedback, for example) that did not have a positive impact for college students and older learners. Without new random assignment or controlled quasi-experimental studies for the effects of online learning options for K-12 students, policy-makers will lack scientific evidence of the effectiveness of these emerging alternatives to face-to-face instruction." (ED, 2010, p. xviii)

Conclusion: In my own words...:

Conclusion: In my own words... From this evaluation, it is clear that online learning, whether pure or blended, is as good or better than face-to-face instruction alone, respectively. However, the report does not suggest that the benefits of blended learning are such simply because technology is implemented; there are many other practices and conditions at play that likely make a blended class more effective, such as variety of materials and mediums, for example. The best practices indicated in online learning are exercises that are instructor-driver, collaborative, and self-reflective. Additionally, it was found that online learning is effective across a broad spectrum of learners and contexts, but that further investigation is needed on its effectiveness for K-12 learning.

Works Cited:

Works Cited U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2010). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies . Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

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