Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Finally, Proof that Online Learning is Best!

Okay, so I have to first say that I have a bias that must be revealed before we go any further in this article. I have made my living from the web since 1995 and feel that almost everything is better online. So when the U.S. Department of Education released their study this week, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, I stood up and cheered!

According to this study, “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” Hallelujah - finally someone researched and proved that the web is better than live. Kind of reminds me of the commercial, "Is it live or is it Memorex?" In this case Memorex beat the live instruction. This research spanned 12 years and 99 studies of mostly colleges and adult education environments. It did find a small but statistically significant improvement in test performance with online students scoring in the 59th percentile compared to face-to-face students scoring in the 50th percentile using standardized tests for both.

Now don't go off and close all of the physical schools just yet, but do look for online education options to continue to grow dramatically just as the tools to deliver it also continue to expand. With the adoption of broadband, the rapid consumption of video and the use of collaborative online communication tools, this segment of the education industry should continue to see explosive growth.

I hope the Department of Education expands its research to younger students as I believe the improvement in performance will be even more dramatic. The advantage that online has over other methods is the ability for a course to go at exactly the right pace for each learner and also the opportunity to incorporate a wide range of teaching styles via this one-on-one medium. And research abounds that proves learning by doing versus learning by listening produces better results.

Online learning curriculum such as should definitely be in the next round of tests that are conducted in this field. By providing interactive activities and games for kids Pre-K to 8th grade to learn language arts, phonics, critical thinking, math, social studies and science, this online educational program could prove a fertile ground for extending their findings to younger audiences.