Sunday, March 13, 2011

16. Evidence-Based Practices and Findings in Online Learning

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning
A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies
U.S. Department of Education
Center for Technology in Learning 2009
Available at:

This comprehensive report is a must read when considering effects and implications of online learning. The report is current and represents an extensive look at online research since 1996 across the border, with studies considering a really substantial amount of data, around online learning.

The report contains a very useful lit review that can direct readers to specific areas of interest. It also contain a number of framework models that can be directly utilized in the creation of practical tools for ESL online learning adaptations. It also provides some reference for definitions and specific aspects of online deliveries, according to a number of perspectives. I include below only a number of considerations in the report. I highly recommend readers to have a direct take of the literature and stands suggested in the report. It is also important to notice that Canadian-based research is part of the literature used to analysis the data in the report. This brings a sense of relevance to Canadian readers and their contexts.

  1. The report considered over 1,000 studies since 1996 - the amount of research considered gives the report a solid base of validity.
  2. One striking finding is that "on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction" (p.ix). Given the right conditions, and in contexts that allow for these conditions to take place on a prolonged time basis, online learning can be as effective and more effective than traditional delivery models.
  3. The report set to investigate the question of practices around online learning from four key points: effectiveness in different delivery systems (namely F2F, blended and fully online); would supplementing of F2F delivery models with access to online learning enhance achievement of objectives; practices associated with effective online learning; and conditions that influence such practices.
The key findings section summarizes the main research points and these include:

  • students can perform better in online learning environments
  • blended instruction can be more effective than online learning alone
  • time on task can increase significantly in online learning
  • variations of implementation of online learning do not directly affect achievement of outcomes - but they can increase collaboration amongst students
  • effectiveness of approaches is broad across content and learner types
  • enhanced learning occurs when students are in control of interactions with media and prompting learner reflection
  • online learning is not superior as a medium per se - combinations of elements produced the best advantages
  • online learning is much more conducive to expansion of learning than F2F
  • promoting self-reflection is an advantage to learners - there are promising evidence-based studies that suggest this can affect achievement of outcomes
  • the learner ability to control the medium seems to be an important factor that affects success
  • asynchronous delivery seems to be more effective in online learning - a combination of time delivery factors can also work. Synchronous delivery online seem o have negative impact on success

Ideas around the conceptual framework for online learning proposed in the report considers the following key characteristics:

  1. online activities that are a replacement for F2F - must achieve same learning objectives
  2. online activities that enhance F2F activities - must improve achievement of learning outcomes
Learning experiences are also brought in the framework, being classified as expository (content transmission); active learning (learner interaction and ability to manipulate data to formulate and build new learning); interactive activities (learning through collaboration). Technology utilized in effective ways allows for each one of these types of activities.

Through technology instructors can

Exhibit 1 on page 5 is a nice table of reference to explain the relationship with the model. Really important reference to keep in mind.

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