The US Department of Education recently completed a university-level study on web-based instruction, which showed that students who took all or part of their course online did better than students who took courses via the traditional classroom route.
Researchers dealt with four specific questions:
1. How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face instruction?
2. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?
3. What practices are associated with more effective online learning?
4. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?
As it turns out, instruction combining both online and face-to-face elements "had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction," according to the report.
Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, recently said that the advantage of online or blended learning over face-to-face instruction alone "is the combination of rich student-teacher-peer communication and interactions that are both asynchronous and synchronous, better utilizing the precious resource of time during, and outside, the school day to maximize learning--and personalize it in a way never before possible." (eSchool News)
Interestingly, when researchers compared different online-learning practices, they found that elements such as video or online quizzes did not appear to influence the amount that students learned in online classes. But giving learners control of their interaction with media and prompting learner reflection did enhance online-learning outcomes.
Although the study focused on college/university environments exclusively, one wonders to what extent independent schools might offer similar programs?
Could we, for example, offer a course that is taught online three days a week, with two days "in residence" at the school. Such would be ideal for a course with a lab requirement.
Imagine a business model that allows this to happen! There's an opportunity for growth!