Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning Review

The topic of the article was very appealing to me. Not only due to the current times of many schools making the choice to offer distance learning, but because the majority of my homeschool students use online learning as their primary medium for academics. When reading through the executive summary, there were a couple questions that really piqued my interest.

  1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?
  2. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?

The effectiveness of online learning and face to face was great for me to read about because I do have so many students working primarily with online curriculum. I have no idea why I was surprised at the research stating that students learn better or just the same as the face to face classroom. I, personally, enjoy online learning more because of the flexibility it offers. Not only do we learn through different mediums (online / traditional) or styles (audio / visual / kinesthetic) better, but our brain works at different times of the day as well. This article talks about the best time to learn, make a decision, be creative, etc. for early birds and night owls. Of course, these time frames won’t be true for everyone, but it is interesting to take into consideration. I tend to work better under pressure, so I’ll usually start closer to the assignment’s due date or late at night. The flexibility that online learning offers allows students the time to produce their best work. I could see how the pros and cons are pretty even across the board when comparing online learning and face to face classrooms.

I appreciated the tables of data or information included in the article. Especially one like this that talks about alternatives and enhancements for the different learning dimension and the specific synchronicity (asynchronous or synchronous).

Now on to the “conditions” point, the researchers defined conditions as “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”.

The condition of the “year in which the intervention took place” was something I had not taken into consideration. Seeing as the study was written in 2010, there hasn’t been a year like 2020 for distance education prior to 2010. The year 2020 would definitely be a big condition to take into consideration. The other conditions being the teacher’s or instructor’s qualifications, and I imagine that a large percentage of teacher’s were not ready, trained, or fully equipped to switch to online learning back in March of this year. Though this year’s abrupt switch to distance learning due to the pandemic did not affect my work as a homeschool advisory teacher, the question of conditions influencing learning is always one that I am thinking about for my students. The chart of other conditions that could influence learning was interesting to read through (though I’ve learned I need to brush up on my statistics to better understand the helpful visuals they’ve included).

It makes sense that materials and learner type would be influential in the learning process for online and even face to face.

Seeing the number by the K-12 really showcases the small percentage that demographic holds in this report. There were only nine of the 99 cases that were centered on K-12 learning, and that percentage drops to four, when considering that the footnote reads that five studies were removed. “This contrast is not statistically significant (p=.13) when the five K-12 studies are removed from the analysis”. Though I find it surprising that the K-12 were in such low numbers of the studies, I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. As someone who was a sophomore in high school in 2010, online learning / distance learning was not prevalent (in my tiny hometown in Alabama), so I could see that there were not many studies before this time period. My school gave us all our own individual laptop and set us up with a website to check grades and have an email account tied to the school. Other than a few projects scattered here and there, we never really explored what was available online. With that being said, I think this research could have benefited by getting more research / information on K-12 school’s online learning. Using four or five schools doesn’t give the reader any reason to believe this is reflective of the millions of students in the K-12 system at that time. If I wrote this article, one major thing I would change is not grouping K-12 together (though with the small numbers they were working with I would see why they had to group them). The way you use technology in 2nd grade is very different from 11th grade. The online learning platforms for most age groups are different as well. I think that it would be more interesting to compare across the board of maybe Elementary to Middle / High school students. This study just primarily focuses on higher education students, who were probably the most common consumers of online learning at that time. Even the article review I did last week about VR in the classroom was only directed to the students and faculty of a university.

In summary:

  • I was surprised that the students learn better or about the same through online classes as they do in the traditional face to face classrooms.
  • I wonder if the point above would be different if K-12 played a bigger role in the research.
  • If I were on the research team, I would have broken up the K-12 sections a bit more to give a more detailed account of online learning across the different ages.
  • It would be interesting to read articles like this in the future now that distance / online learning has played a big role in education today.

I’m curious about you guys: do you personally learn better face to face, online, or a mixture of both?

When I was working two jobs, I used to prefer asynchronous classes. I felt like I couldn’t absorb the information being presented in a face to face or synchronous class. Now, having gone through the quarantine and everything is online, I have a new appreciation for face to face or synchronous classes. (Though I still prefer to do my work after 10pm).

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