Online Education

A New York Times article has reported that SRI International for the Department of Education discovered that students performed better in online learning scenarios than in classroom scenarios.

The study was performed from 1996 through 2008, and it used mostly college students and adults. However, some K-12 students were used.

Students who did some or all of their work in online settings ranked nine percent higher on test scores than students who used strictly classroom, face-to-face instructions. On average, students who used online instructions ranked in the 59th percentile on test scores, while students who used only classroom instructions ranked in the 50th percentile. 

The report used 99 studies to compare students using online instructions to those using classroom instructions for the same course, according to The New York Times.

Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and educational psychologist at SRI International said that online education has evolved significantly. “The study’s main significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing  - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” Means told The New York Times.

Experts, however, told The New York Times that the classroom will not become obsolete. However, they noted that online education will increase significantly within the next few years, as its value enhances.

Experts also told The New York Times that online education gives students a more unique learning experience, and the programs can be designed to fit the needs of the individual students. This is something that the classroom can – at times – lack. Experts also noted that the student is more active and more attentive in an online situation. Experts said that Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools helped boost the value of online education and further engage the students.

Philip Reiger, the dean of Arizona State University’s online and extended campus program, told The New York Times that he believes online education will sharply grow within a few years and transform college campuses.

Currently, many K-12 schools and colleges use online programs like Blackboard and Moodle. However, these schools do not use these programs to do full-scale teaching. These programs are mainly used for posting assignments, schedules, grades, class notes and other similar information, according to The New York Times.

Reiger told The New York Times that he believes technology will rapidly evolve online learning programs in the next few years.

 “The technology will be used to create learning communities among students in new ways,” Regier says. “People are correct when they say online education will take things out the classroom. But they are wrong, I think, when they assume it will make learning an independent, personal activity. Learning has to occur in a community.”

Nearly all colleges offer some form of online education. Most colleges even allow students to pursue online degrees. Online classes can allow a student pursuing a double major or a five plus year degree graduate ahead of schedule. Some students may not find it feasible to be away from home during the summer to take summer classes. However, online classes offer a second, feasible option. These students can engage and earn credits over the summer on their free time.

Online programs could also give college graduates an option to easily pick up a higher degree, while working full time. These people could take online classes at night, at their own pace, to further enhance their knowledge and workforce value.

Some argue that online classes benefit the student because he/she can learn the material on his/her own time. Also, students can listen to class lectures at their own pace. Students can also rewind lectures or listen to them multiple times.

However, this is nothing more advanced than what a cheap tape recorder, sitting on one’s desk can accomplish. Opponents argue that the classroom situation is a unique, intimate experience with a professor. They argue that this is something that online classes lack. Opponents also argue that students can not ask questions in online lectures and can – at times – be left stranded.

Ultimately, some students may perform better than others in online scenarios. Also, online classes may work well for some classes but poorly for others. Students should weigh their options and seek advice from guidance counselors on the matter.