Does eLearning Work? What the Scientific Research Says! By Will Thalheimer, PhD
Will Thalheimer is a learning expert, researcher, instructional designer, consultant, speaker, and writer. Dr Thalheimer has worked in the learning-and-performance field since 1985.
This research is divided into four sections:
1. Comparison of eLearning with Traditional Classroom Instruction
2. Examples of Single Research Studies Comparing eLearning to Classroom Instruction
3. Examples of Other eLearning-Relevant Research Studies
4. Meta-Analyses of Other Technologies Relevant to eLearning including all the research articles covered in the meta-analyses examined.
In this post, we will take you through the first and fourth sections of the study.
In the first section of the report, five meta-analyses are summarized, comparing eLearning and learning technologies to traditional classroom practice. The analyses state that eLearning tends to outperform classroom instruction, and blended learning (using online learning and classroom instruction) creates the largest benefits. The results give clear evidence that eLearning modality is not the sole reason that improves learning. The reason for eLearning to outperform classroom instruction and blended learning to outperform both is the learning methods and strategies used in eLearning. Typically, these strategies are not used in traditional classroom instruction, but when used in a blended learning model, they are more beneficial than when used in only eLearning. These learning methods include providing learners with realistic practice, spaced repetitions, contextually-meaningful scenarios, and feedback.
The last section of the report looks at other meta-analyses—those examining topics relevant to eLearning. The section sees the variety of learning methods on which researchers focus on eLearning domains, including factors such as simulations, simulation games, feedback, animations, digital games, learner control, computer-mediated language learning, interactivity, and eLearning acceptance.
All in all, the following pointers mention the conclusions of the research:
- eLearning and classroom instructions, both produce similar results when learning methods are held constant.
- In instances where no special efforts are made to hold learning methods constant, eLearning tends to outperform traditional classroom instruction.
- A great deal of variability is evident in the research. The research mentions the possibility of eLearning producing better results than classroom instruction. However, it often produces results worse or sometimes similar.
- In terms of learning effectiveness, what matters is NOT the learning modality (eLearning vs classroom); it is the learning methods that matter, including such factors as realistic practice, spaced repetitions, real-world contexts, and feedback.
- Blended learning tends to outperform classroom learning by relatively large magnitudes. This is probably because the eLearning strategies used in blended learning often uses more effective learning methods.
Check out the detailed report here.
The studies mentioned above show the effectiveness of eLearning for student learning. Important factors like student engagement, collaboration, peer interaction, feedback, flexibility, and motivation are prominent in the eLearning setting compared to the traditional teaching model. As per studies, students have responded positively, and their results improve under the online learning approach. However, what drives students to succeed in an online learning environment is self-motivation. With studies mentioned above in consideration, eLearning has a positive impact on students learning.
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