Even though online education is gaining in prestige and recognition, many people still mistakenly think that an online degree is equal to an inferior education. That thinking may finally change, however, due to the release of a study from Ithaka S+R. The study, entitled “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials”, shows that online learning provides much the same education as that of a traditional setting.
How the Study Was Conducted
During the study, researchers monitored 605 college students who were taking introductory statistics at six public universities. In the fall of 2011, half of the students completed the group online with one hour of in-class time weekly. All participating students were required to take a series of tests before taking the course and upon completion. Based on these results, researchers found that the students who took online classes performed a little better than those in the traditional classroom. Researchers stated that although the online students performed slightly better on exams, the quality of the learning outcomes between the two formats was nearly identical.
Why Hybrid and Online Classes Work
A variety of educational studies have shown that students learn more effectively from being involved in discussions than from the traditional lecture format. Diane Johnson, assistant director of faculty services at the Center for Online Learning at St. Leo University, states that students in traditional classrooms need instructors who can get them truly involved in the learning.
While teacher quality plays a part in the success of online classes, the course design can be even more effective. Classes that allow for student interaction and support from the instructor provide a much better learning quality. In addition, the best learning occurs when students are actively engaged with one another through chat or message boards.
The Future of Online Learning
It is important that people start seeing online education as a valuable alternative to regular classes. As university budgets shrink, increasing numbers of schools are likely to turn to online education or hybrid classes to cut costs. With the comparable learning outcomes, cost savings, and productivity games to be had, online education is sure to keep growing.