questions about online education

One of the most frequently and persistently asked questions about online education is “does it work” or “is it effective.”
The question is meaningless because there cannot be any definitive answer for a number of reasons.

First, online education (and its variants such a online instruction, online teaching, distance education and distance learning) is a big umbrella that covers a wide array of different practices, which vary a great deal in terms of quality. Comparing the effectiveness of online education with face-to-face education has been the most common research approach to examine the effectiveness of online education. And the answer has been, for a long time, that there is no significant difference between the two. This answer, however, does not mean online is effective or not, it simply means there are plenty of effective and ineffective programs in both online and face-to-face education. In other words, the within variation is larger than the between variation.

Second, another reason that there cannot be a definitive answer to this question is the diversity of stakeholders in online education.
And unfortunately what works for one stakeholder may not work for the others.

Third, even within the same program and with only students as the stakeholder, there cannot be a definitive answer because no program can possibly have the same effects on all students equally.

Fourth, yet another reason that the question cannot have a definitive answer is the multiplicity of outcomes. Education outcomes include more than what has been typically measured by grades or tests.

Fifth, the rapid changes in technology that can be used to deliver online education add to the elusiveness of a definitive answer to the question. While pedagogy, design, and human actors certainly paly a significant role in the experiences of online education, so does technology.

more on online education in this IMS blog

1 Comment on questions about online education

  1. Yoon Choi
    April 2, 2020 at 6:02 pm (4 months ago)

    I totally agree with your thoughts!
    Especially, education itself can not be evaluated the effectiveness to anyone equally.
    I saw some studies that online education is effective to students with disabilities, because they can practice how to communicate, socialize with peers, before they go out to a real world, however, like a double-sided sword, they may not well adopt with virtual learning environment (vision problem, technology issues, typing, and lots of variables).
    So, in my perspective, the effectiveness of online education is depending on how well students and teachers are prepared, lead, follow, and enjoy the class!


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