blended learning > e-learning > face-to-face learning!
I recently discovered a three year old research report from the Department of Education in the United States. A meta-analysis, encompassing studies covering a 12 year period from 1996 to 2008, it compares the effectiveness of e-learning and blended learning to face-to-face instruction.
Advocates of e-learning have argued for some time that it is at least as good as face-to-face methods, but this research appears to provide substantial supporting evidence. In fact, the research shows blended learning (a mix of online and face-to-face) works best, purely online learning is second best, and face-to-face the least effective option of the three.
Barbara Means, an educational psychologist and the report’s lead author, has said “the study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction”.
Before we get too carried away, we should note that the scope of this research was schools, where the objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of learning. In the world of work, we need also to take account of the transfer of learning to the workplace, and subsequent impacts on performance and business results. But this still amounts to an emphatic endorsement of the use of digital technology in learning.